(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Beauty and Art"

Google 



This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing tliis resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for in forming people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http: //books .google .com/I 



I 



PA 13:1.7 



TRANSFERRED TO 
FINE ARTS LIBRARY 



©atbarl) (JToIUge llbrars- 



Bought with 

Jvloney reoeived froi 

Library F"inew. 



Ai, y?ho^,//rfy, . 



rn 



,-w ^. 



^} 



<Kf 



r \ '^ 
\ r 



h 




n 









i' -a* 



^ 



/ 



i 









'M^. 



^^. 



ITOM. 



I8S7. 



?m^. 



FA 13^7 



/y\^' -%\ 






7, 



/ 



/t'^\_^. ^ V\ \ e-^Ao^ 



/ 



,1 

i 



/ Dedicate this book to my friend 

Henry Cory Shuttle*ivortby M.A.^ 

Rector of St. Nicholas^ Cole Abbey ^ 

sometime Minor Canon of St. Paul's^ 

who has the keenest appreciation of 

Beauty — in Art — in Nature — and 

in Life, 

A. H. 



NOTE.—The essay an " Taste" was 
written many years agOy but as I have seen 
no reason for altering my general views 
upon that subject y it is now tinted almost 
exactly as written. 

The essay on "Beauty in Form emd 
Colour" was prepared at the request of 
the Arvhitecturai Institute of London^ 
and was afterwards read to similar In- 
stitutes in Liverpool and Leeds some ten 
years ago* 

The "Decoration of the House" essay 
was written three or four years ago at 
the request of the Liverpool Architectural 
AssocieUion. 

That on " Fabrics " is more recent^ and 
nut a request from the Architectural In- 
stitute of London ; with it is incorporated 
a paper on the same subject ^ written for 
the Architectural Association of London, 

The article on "Furniture and Deco- 
rettiouy' &»c.y is the preface to a large 
illustrated worh on "Furniture and 
Decoration in the Eighteenth Century^' 
written for Messrs. f.&^E. Bumpus. hjf 
whose kind permisston it is included tn 
this volume* 



^^BBB»"^"^^^*P^^ 



'PREFACE 



JMONG the prints engraved after the inimitable 
^^l Hogarth, there is one which represents the 
inhabitants of the moon; and a rather terrible 
monstrosity it is. It jvas intended, no doubt, as a 
satire to illustrate the horrid catastrophes which may 
overtake those who propose to be designers on an en- 
tirely original basis ; that is to say, guided solely by 
their own untrained imagination. If such a satire 
was needful in Hogarth^s age, there is assuredly 
twenty-fold the want of it to-day. 

Just when our leading men of science have demon- 
strated the absolute truth of Evolution, our artists {or 
would-be artists) are trying tojorce us to ignore it. 

No one who approaches the subject with a becoming 
humility can question that Evolution is the secret and 
key-note of Art, no less than of Nature. In the 
greatest and most difficult of the Arts, where, for- 
tunately for us, the stages of Evolution are most 
distinctly exhibited, namely, in Architecture, even 
the boy-student may perceive the steps by which the 
Greek Temple grew into the Roman Temple, and 
that into the Byzantine Church, and that into the 

Gothic Cathedral; all the stages of evolution are 

vii 



PREFACE 

here preserved to us in imperishable stone and marble. 
The very same development has taken place in every 
other branch of Art; and it has been reserved for the 
Nineteenth Century to endeavour to ignore this in- 
evitable process, and show how young men and women 
can originate things as horrible, because as false 
(to Nature), as are Hogarth's '* Inhabitants of the 
Moon/' 

The idiosyncrasies of artists and designers have 
not urfrequently led them into strange vagaries, but 
here there is no question of a mere eccentricity. We 
are confronted by a definite intention to introduce 
entire novelty, not only ignoring the design of the 
past, but, as far as may be, in defiance of it. 

It is easy to see how designers might have been 
irritated ten or twenty years ago by the bad examples 
of every class of design which they saw around 
them, and our first impression may be that their atti- 
tude may have been a mere reaction based on an 
erroneous supposition that the past had grown so 
wholly debased that it must be entirely deserted, and 
fresh beginnings made on fresh lines. However mis- 
taken such an assumption may be, it is clearly within 
the range of possibility that to certain minds, in 
certain conditions, such an argument might seem 
warrantable. 

Another suggestion is less tenable, namely, that the 
strong impetus, which evidently leads many people 
now, merely to be conspicuous, whether from the 

• • • 

Vlll 



PREFACE 

mere desire J^or prominence as in itself an end, or 
from the com/mercial idea of attaining to pecuniary 
success by a new and shorter road, may have led to 
the deplorable results of the day. Half-a-dozen 
leading practitioners in such a movement are enough^ 
at the present time, with our quick intercommunica- 
tion of ideas, to lead scores of beginners to follow 
them ; and just now it seems as though it was '^ in 
the air ^' for all young draughtsmen to try to become 
designers of ornament on absolutely original grounds. 
If this book should induce a few of these to accept 
tradition rather than moonstruck fancy as their guide, 
it may not have been written in vain. 



ALDAM HEATON. 



29 Bloomsbury Square, 

Nrw Yearns Day^ 1897. 



IX 



CONTENTS 

Pag€ 

Taste ........ I 

Beauty in Form and Colour . . . • 35 

appendix. — High Art for Shallow Purses . 82 

Decoration of the House . . • • .87 

Fabrics . . . . . . . .127 

Furniture and Decoration of the Eighteenth Century . 161 



XI 



1 



TASTE 



TASTE 



aT may safely be affirmed that there 
is no subject closely affecting our 
daily lives and habits, about which 
we are all so ready to confess our 
ignorance as that form of Art which should be 
our guide in the choice of dress and furniture 
and ornaments of all kinds ; and yet there is 
none where a general ignorance produces a 
failure so disastrous in its consequences. 

An absolute lack of acquaintance with astro- 
nomy or geology, for instance, results only in 
inability to converse on those subjects, together 
with a loss of the pleasures to be derived from 
a study of nature in those directions— nay, even 
a total ignorance of high art may commonly 
3 



I ' 



BEAUTY AND ART 

be met by an avoidance of the subject ; or if a 
picture or two must be had to decorate the 
dining-room, a judicious application to Agnew 
or Dowdswell may completely annihilate the 
difficulty, and leave the owner safe in the com- 
pany of knowing dilettanti, and secure of their 
applause. 

But a personal necessity for the exercise of 
choice, for the most part unassisted, in matters 
involving form and colour, is laid upon each 
of us almost hourly, and all through life. A 
man cannot buy a scarf for himself, or a dress 
for his wife, a chimney-piece ornament, a pair 
of curtains, a workbox, a fan, or any little 
birthday present, not to mention such important 
matters as building a house or serving on a 
committee to build a church, without being 
perforce obliged to exercise such judgment and 
choice as he possesses. 

And when discussion happens to arise upon 
questions of " good taste," nine people out of 
every ten instantly volunteer the announcement 
that they " know nothing at all about that sort 
of thing " (which is probably quite true), and 
profess to refer matters to the taste of a so- 
called "authority." Unfortunately, the same 
people are equally ready to remark, " Of course, 
I know what pleases me;" and unless tram- 
melled by the presence of the " authority," who 

4 



— ?Tr- = 



■'V.f'b, *^«^>^«^ 



TASTE 

is supposed to have " taste," will instantly pro- 
ceed to exhibit their confessed ignorance in a 
practical and concrete form, to the last limit of 
pitiable, recurring, and irrevocable mishap. 

But this readiness to admit complete igno- 
rance about laws of " taste," coupled with an 
apparently complete confidence in pronouncing 
judgment whenever occasion serves, is not quite 
so paradoxical as it might at first appear, at 
least in the mind or intention of the actors. 
For two serious misapprehensions underlie the 
situation. No one would object to admit in- 
ability to speak Fiji, or play the banjo ; he might, 
indeed, entertain a silent conviction that there is 
little to learn, and nothing to gain by learning 
that little. And the same conviction holds good 
with many respecting that form of Art we are 
discussing. But this is surely a grave blunder. 
Let me take an analogous case. We all know 
that the ear may be pleasantly tickled and the 
emotions excited by music, and that considerable 
enjoyment may be extracted even from an in- 
diflFerent performance heard for the first time 
by persons utterly uncultivated in that direc- 
tion ; yet we know not less surely, firstly, that 
it is possible, not to say probable, that the ear 
may be permanently spoiled by listening only 
to the performance of bad or low-class music ; 
and, secondly, that it is not from the higher 

5 



BEAUTY AND ART 

efForts of musical genius alone that the highest 
order of pleasurable sensations are obtained, but 
that study, and patience, and many repetitions 
of the same composition are requisite to the 
listener before the full beauties of fine music 
can be thoroughly appreciated. And yet the 
ear may well be supposed to be as quick to 
convey impressions of beauty in sound, as the 
eye of form or colour. What right have we 
to take it for granted that the uncultivated 
eye and brain can at a glance comprehend the 
beauty of God's works ? I believe they ordi- 
narily do take in an extremely small propor- 
tion of the impressions to be obtained after 
careful study ; and that the infinite paucity and 
triviality of the sensations of beauty enjoyed 
by people who have never given any time or 
study to nature, are responsible for the general 
satisfaction in a life which takes only passing 
glances at the shores and boundaries of things 
— as children gather flowers from a vague and 
momentary interest, and drop them listlessly 
at the next gate — and that the great unfathom- 
able ocean of the beauty of God's creation 
remains to all such people a sealed book. 

And the other mistake is even of greater 
importance, in its general result, at all events. 
The very people who in one breath express 
themselves as ignorant — ignorant of any laws 

6 



TASTE 

of beauty or standards of excellence— are quite 
as ready with an opinion when occasion de- 
mands, not from mere conceit or inanity, but 
from a vague and popular supposition that 
there is no such thing as an abstract standard 
of beauty, and that the " taste " (meaning really 
caprice or fancy) of each individual is a sufficient 
guide for him or her, though not necessarily 
for any one else. I don't mean to say that 
this has been formulated and definitely offered 
as an axiom for acceptance — far from it. Had 
any one attempted to do so, an opposite result 
must have been obtained. But in a matter 
where general education is extremely deficient, 
vagueness steps in and endorses ignorance and 
private whim, relying on the absence of any 
canons which might trip up the hasty judg- 
ment. And so one hears constantly the phrase, 
*'It is a matter of taste," implying that in all 
questions which are not matters of absolute and 
ascertained fact, one opinion is pretty nearly 
as good as another, and, at all events for the 
holder of the opinion, quite as good. In which 
proposition there are clearly some very loose 
screws indeed. 

In order to avoid the unpleasant German- 
Greek phrase " aesthetics," I will use the com- 
mon and much-abused word " taste " ; but, as it 
is most frequently used in a loose and slovenly 

7 



BEAUTY AND ART 

fashion, let me define. To all sons and daughters 
of man, I imagine there is given by nature some 
bent or bias of preponderating force, — in exceed- 
ingly varying degree no doubt, but something 
to each; and where this innate bias receives 
from education, or felicitous circumstances, or 
both, its utmost development, we have the 
" genius," or the man of talent, or the ready 
learner, according to the degree in which the 
bias has been given, or the vigour of the 
organism in which it has been placed. If a 
child has the gift of perception of beauty in 
form and colour developed up to the point we 
term " genius," and has the gift well cultivated, 
it becomes an artist ; if it has the same gift in a 
lesser degree, and the circumstances of life and 
education are not uncongenial, we get the man 
or woman of " taste " or " good taste." 

The phrase " bad taste " is misleading, because 
it seems to allow that taste is a question merely 
of degree, and that all the degrees are more or 
less admissible from something short of bad 
up to something actually good. If we find a 
mistake in a matter involving the use of deco- 
rative art, the word " false " will best express the 
blunder. The word " taste," therefore, should 
be used to express a natural aptitude and an 
acquired facility for seeing what is beautiful in 

form and colour, and promptly separating it 

8 






TASTE 

from what is coarse and degrading. "Taste" is 
the faculty of discriminating, and where no dis- 
crimination is made, no taste exists. Of course 
taste may enter into more matters than decora- 
tive art, but it is not now our purpose to follow 
it further. 

Unquestionably there is a large number of 
people originally possessing this innate sense of 
beauty in form and colour; but among those 
born with such a bias, many never have the 
natural gift cultivated, and it becomes obscured ; 
while a still larger number, through want of 
personal force and individuality of character, 
cease to exercise the gift, and drop helplessly 
into grooves marked out by the chariot-wheels 
of the great goddess Fashion. 

And how wide is the list of subjects upon 
which people, confessedly ignorant, have daily 
to exercise their judgment — with a corre- 
spondent widely disastrous result, of course ! 
Let me enumerate : and first, on account of the 
all but daily necessity for the purchase of some 
article, and its enormous cost if added up for 
a lifetime, must be placed Women! s dress. 

" They ordered the silks and they ordered the flowers, 
And the bill it kept rolling up gown upon gown." 

And next, not to be ungallant. Metis dress 
— for a man may make a terrible fool of him- 
self by a ridiculous garment, and not know it. 

9 



r » 



BEAUTY AND ART 

3rd. Trifles for ornament, for presents, and 
little " nothings " generally, in which, through 
constant, daily, hourly transactions, the annual 
expenditure must be enormous, and in which 
false taste very commonly makes its appearance. 

4th. Jewellery for both sexes, and plate, — 
costing as much as the maintenance of armies. 

5th. Ladies' fancy work, daily before our 
eyes, generally entirely useless and exceedingly 
costly. 

6th. Wall papers and carpets, working havoc 
in the rooms we have to inhabit for most of 
our waking hours. Draperies, which form an 
absolutely necessary item in every room where 
comfort, not to say luxury, is desired. Furni- 
ture for the house, the office, the public build- 
ing, the school, the place of worship. 

7th. Glass, china, and table ornaments gene- 
rally, for domestic use, always being broken, 
and so requiring constant renewal. Decorative 
china, clocks, bronzes, staircase " stained-glass " 
windows, &c., &c. — generally not decorative. 
Mirrors and chimney-pieces, involving great 
displays of real and sham marble, carving and 
gilding. 

8 th. Pictures, engravings, and illustrated 

books and their bindings, forming a cumbrous 

and useless incubus on the drawing-room and 

library tables. 

10 



TASTE 

9th. Gardening, including the inevitable 
summer-house. 

loth. Church embroidery, decoration, and 
stained -glass, where false taste is a public 
horror. 

And lastly, above and beyond the range of 
the subjects we are discussing in their relation 
to good taste, but unfortunately, as a matter of 
practice, quite within the range of the ordinary 
transactions of ordinary mortals, and for the 
most part quite unguarded by any selection of 
men for their special fitness, comes No. 11, 
choice of architectural design^ including the 
house, the place of business, the public build- 
ing, the church, where false taste and blunders 
are a national disaster. 

Here is an appalling list of eleven tolerably 
distinct subjects, upon all of which many of 
us, and upon many of which all ot us, have 
constantly to exercise our unassisted judgment 
as well as we can ; involving the spending of 
a large portion of our time, and a still larger 
proportion of our annual incomes ; and to fit 
us for which not one in a hundred has received 
any education whatever. 

Perhaps some of my readers may reply, 
"Well, but in nine out of eleven of your 
subjects a mistake does not necessarily afiFect 
any one but the individuals who are parties to 

II 



BEAUTY AND ART 

it, and perhaps not even them, for they may 
never find it out." But, setting aside for the 
moment the fact that no individual mistake can 
be anything but a common loss — for is not the 
nation made up of individuals ? — I answer that 
there are at least three distinct ways in which 
the exercise of false taste is individually as well 
as generally harmful : — 

For, first, the error perpetuates itself by 
encouraging trade in the precise direction of 
the blunder, and by imprinting itself on the 
minds of children and others incapable of exer- 
cising unbiassed judgment. 

2nd. It leaves an heirloom of false rubbish to 
be dealt with by posterity, which, out of regard 
for the opinion of the past, is likely to be ham- 
pered and blinded in exercising a true judgment. 

3rd. It deprives the buyer of a great part 
of the value of what he purchases. He ought 
to reap definite pleasure and gratification 
("sweetness and light") from the form, de- 
sign, colour, or fitness of what he has acquired ; 
but if he has asked for a fish, and knows so 
little of the nature of fishes that he can be 
put off with a stone, he is cheated. 

Moreover, an inability to exercise " taste " 

robs us of enjoyment in two directions. It 

hampers and deadens our enjoyment of God's 

art (Nature), and it bars the road altogether to 

12 




H»i^^F*"""^^^^"^^'^^^"^"Ti^"^^^*^^^^"^^"^'^^'''='**W«^'^"^»"*'^^ 



TASTE 

the poetic region of man's art — the great world 
of poetry in architecture, painting, and sculp- 
ture. Those to whom beauty of form and 
colour is a dead letter, only see half the love- 
liness — perhaps not half — of flower and moun- 
tain, opal and sunset. If we are rightly to read 
the beautiful page of Nature, we must at least 
have learned our alphabet, and the primer is 
a patient, careful, and humble study of leaf 
and flower, bud and berry, pebble and crag, 
searching for the beauty of the Maker in each. 
If we would truly comprehend the beauty of 
the other Creation "Man added to Nature,'* 
we must patiently and reverently study the 
footprints by which Phidias and Durer, Tin- 
toret and Turner, approached the Temple of 
Art to add courses to her masonry. 

And finally, mistakes under the last head are 
without doubt national disasters. Men, con- 
fessing their ignorance, but having no just 
knowledge of the results of such ignorance, 
fearlessly approach the most difiicult work man 
has to put his hand to — architecture ; advertise 
for plans, and, to relieve themselves from the 
intricate work of constant consultations with 
an architect, " consider " (!) the competing de- 
signs with redhot haste, or with a foregone 
conclusion in favour of a cousin or a neigh- 
bour, and vote huge sums of money for the 

13 






BEAUTY AND ART 

erection of buildings, which in nineteen cases 
out of twenty never afford a ray of pleasure or 
satisfaction to any — not even to the builders ; 
which people of quick perceptions instantly pro- 
nounce to be altogether inferior to the mediaeval 
remains among us, and which cannot fail to be 
an incubus and an eyesore to our posterity, if 
not indeed to ourselves also. If the same indi- 
viduals were asked to sit in judgment upon an 
oratorio or a chemical analysis, they would in- 
stantly shrink from the ordeal, feeling their 
want of exact knowledge; but in these ques- 
tions where the use of the eyes alone is un- 
happily supposed to furnish the judge with all 
the evidence required, people satisfy themselves 
with the consideration, "I suppose I know what 
I like when I see it with my eyes^ A most 
miserable blunder ! As if the eyes are any- 
thing more than reflectors to convey pictures 
of facts to the brain. The eyes do their duty 
for the most part truthfully enough, examine 
the witnesses and report the evidence exactly 
enough; but if the brain be an uncultivated and 
indiscriminating judge, unlearned and careless, 
what will the judgments be ? 

We have had in times past a living school ot 
decorative art in Europe, if not in England; 
but it is long since dead. With the rashness 
of boy navigators, we have cut the well-anchored 

14 



TASTE 

and safe cable of Tradition. We have not 
been taught at school even the barest outlines 
of Art. And as a nation we seem (in com- 
parison with Orientals, for instance), rather de- 
ficient than otherwise in artistic instincts and 
capacities, and have our minds mainly set upon 
politics, literature, science, railways, and money- 
making; so that we undoubtedly are — the large 
majority of us — quite as innocent of " taste " 
as with commendable candour we generally con- 
fess ourselves to be. 

Again, there is such a fearful multiplicity of 
things to mislead — things set before us with 
glamour and false lights — wares recommended 
by false titles (and sold by false weights). Not 
to mention the terrible Berlin wool work patterns 
from Germany, which haunted us in our child- 
hood, and prey upon us still, in slippers, in 
cushions, in smoking-caps, in antimacassars, in 
bed-pockets — present with us like evil genii by 
night and by day, sneaking into the sanctum of 
our affections by aid of the loving fingers and 
bright eyes of fair workers — not to mention 
these, are we not fairly overwhelmed with a 
torrent of rubbish from France, saleable only 
because it is novel, admired only because it is 
" fashionable " — apples of Sodom, brilliant and 
attractive to the eye, dust and poison to the 
palate. But French dress, jewellery, furniture, 

15 



BEAUTY AND ART 

and knicknackeries would not be sold if they 
found no buyers. There is manifestly a great 
demand for things designed in the French style, 
and it is now so widely spread in England, 
Germany, Austria, America, wherever, in fact, 
Europeans dwell, and forms so conamon a 
standard of imitation, that it may be well 
before going further to stop and inquire how 
this pre-eminence has been obtained. 

Beautiful as are the Art-remains of ancient 
France, our own country is quite as rich, and 
in the later productions of Gothic, probably 
richer. France certainly has produced tapes- 
tries of extraordinary beauty and of the highest 
artistic value; but she can boast no equiva- 
lents to Holbein, Gainsborough, Reynolds, and 
Turner. That the china of Sevres ever possessed 
any high artistic merit may well be doubted : 
it might be exquisite in point of workmanship, 
wonderful in suggestion of costliness, fit "to 
set before a king " ; but with its absence of all 
sense oi fitness in the sort of design employed, 
it must, in company with our own Chelsea ware, 
and the productions of Dresden, be relegated 
to a very inferior place indeed when compared 
with fine old Oriental ware, or even with 
mediaeval Italian. France seems to have been 
before us in the present day in the successful 

copying of Oriental china ; but we have 

i6 



^_^.>^ * - — - |» — ' -' -\'- ~-»T- 



^mmm^^^^m^mmtm^mi^^^mm^mm^mimmmmmfmmti^mKm 



TASTE 

preceded her in the resuscitation of the art 
of making stained glass, and in reproducing 
eighteenth century furniture showing how 
poetical and picturesque were the houses of 
our forefathers. 

Both nations have had an era of living deco- 
rative art, and from both, that era has long since 
departed. In this respect, therefore, they are 
equal — equal in disadvantage. In the realms 
of literature we need not fear comparison ; in 
the complete enjoyment of national freedom, 
in enterprise, in a growing dislike of war and 
consequent advance in civilisation, in the dig- 
nity of the national councils, there is everything 
to lead to the* conviction that England should 
be ai least on a level with her neighbour in 
the production of anything requiring active 
brains and nimble fingers. 

Nevertheless, French fashions have obtained 
an enormously preponderating position ! 

I shall endeavour to show that the French 
have attained this pre-eminence by means of 
inordinate and extravagant attention to women s 
dress, with a constant appeal to the sensuous 
rather than to the intellectual side of human 
nature ; and that it is through two eccentricities 
of the national character, which cannot but be 
considered as national weaknesses, that this 
result has been mainly obtained. 

17 B 



BEAUTY AND ART 

However desirable it was that Gothic art, 
having become effete and corrupt, should be 
swept away, there can be no doubt that the Re- 
naissance, when fully developed, swept away also 
the love of fine design, and substituted the love 
of fine workmanship. Instead of a delight in 
quaint, mysterious, and poetical representations 
of things natural and supernatural, such as un- 
doubtedly belonged to the earlier centuries, it 
substituted niceties of trivial detail and infinite 
finessing in trifles ; and, above all, it encouraged 
in courts and nobles an insistent passion for dis- 
play, resulting in an entire loss of the love of 
beautiful things for their beauty^ and giving in 
return only a desire to display costly things for 
their cost ; transferring, moreover, a large pro- 
portion of the decoration formerly bestowed 
principally upon the house, to the occupants of 
the house, and so encouraging that pride of life 
which ere long became the bane of society and 
its ruin. And here, I think, was the birth of 
" Fashion." 

When a court lady wore a splendid robe, — 
embroidered by her own women perhaps, — and 
delighted in it because of its wealth of imagery 
and colour, the natural desire would be to take 
care of it, and even to transmit it to a succes- 
sor ; but when she came to wear a dress whose 

only charm was its excellence of manufacture 

i8 



TASTE 

or its suggestion of costliness, the growing love 
of display and pride of life demanded a relay 
of such dresses, with proportionate iclat to 
arise from their recurring variety. But how 
was variety to be exhibited ? Noble design 
was no longer sought for their embroideries 
— ^scarcely for their brocades; the cut of the 
dress, its trimmings, its colour, must become a 
subject of increased study, and a court lady 
must each month outdo herself. And the 
goddess Fashion was upreared to receive the 
plaudits (or curses) of generations unborn. 

Consider here the absolute and radical differ- 
ence between a choice made in accordance with 
a sense of beauty and one made in accord- 
ance with what is said to be fashionable. It 
is not a question of degree, it is one of kind. 
If a man once accepts the fashion of the day 
as his guide, he cannot possibly accept the laws 
of beauty, of colour and form, also as a guide. 
" No man can serve two masters," especially, as 
in the present case, where the two masters may 
be, and often are, in direct opposition. 

Twice at least in historic times, in the life 
of nations we cannot but study and admire — 
Greece and Rome — a point was reached at which 
civilisation, wealth, and ease resulted in an 
intense admiration of the human body, and an 
overweening care for its gratification — an over- 

19 



BEAUTY AND ART 

whelming and oversensuous admiration of it 
and a pampering of its appetites. It is not to 
the present purpose to stop and inquire to what 
extent the human body contains all the ele- 
ments of beauty of form which an artistic 
people must study, and study with delight; 
or how far, mankind being made up of body 
as well as soul and spirit, the body is entitled 
to its delights — let much be granted on both 
heads. It is nevertheless true that coincidently 
with this inordinate love of the body came a 
loss of those grander attributes, virtues, hero- 
isms, which had made those great nations what 
they were. Their excessive love of the body 
did not make them greater, it made them 
feebler. As they became more of sensualists 
they became less of men. But the trade in 
dress, and ornaments, and luxuries, and costly 
furniture throve enormously, and in Pompeii 
reached an abyss of extravagance unknown before 
or since. But the luxury had destroyed the Art 
— costliness and sensuality alone remained. 

History repeats itself. In eighteenth and 
nineteenth century Europe, civilisation, wealth, 
and ease have again produced among courtiers, 
among the aristocracy, among the wealthy-idle, 
an excessive consideration for the human body 
— evidently the natural result of these circum- 
stances; and those who can the most success- 

20 



TASTE 

fully cater for the gratification of this passion 
are sure of a trade more or less Pompeian. 

Now, the French have two characteristics as 
a nation, referred to above, which eminently fit 
them to fill this oflice : I mean, an infinite 
possibility of abandon^ of giving the rein freely, 
regardless of consequences, to whatever craving 
for gratification a fertile imagination may sug- 
gest ; and, secondly, a strong tendency to drama- 
tise and to exaggerate for the dramatic eflFect, 
colour or form, light and shade, action and 
expression, even to the point of the grotesque ; 
resulting in the production of things startling, 
things sensational, things piquant ^ things drdle. 
Deeply imbued with the spirit of the Renaissance, 
and consequently revelling in all that suggests 
pomp and princely living, in delicacy of work- 
manship, in finesse of detail, in the extravagant 
use of the precious metals (or, what appears to 
serve as well, their imitations !), it is inevitable 
that Fashion should be the goddess at whose 
shrine they worship. And Fashion, followed 
with abandon and exaggeration, means constant 
novelty; for if a dress or a trinket has no 
other recommendation than that it is fashion- 
able — that it is in the fashionable style — its 
value ceases when a fresh panderer to the thirst 
for ^clat or sensation introduces a new style. 
Throw it aside and get another, or you will 

21 



BEAUTY AND ART 

be behmd in the race. It means more, how- 
ever, as we shall see. And, constituted as Eve's 
daughters are, it does not require either a 
historian or a magician to tell us that a young 
and idle woman living " in society," and having 
the means or the credit, will go in for novelty 
pretty fiercely, and that there will be plenty of 
tradesmen to do her bidding. The end she 
proposes to herself is to elicit the admiration 
of the coterie among whom she lives, and it 
must be admitted that either sex generally 
shows itself quite ready for the occasion. 

It must freely be granted that the French 
modist (let me use the word in this form for 
male or female) brings many fitting qualities 
to the task, at least if present fashions are the 
best to be desired in dress (though this I by 
no means grant). The French are clever, 
ingenious, fertile in invention, dexterous in 
handiwork, exact in manipulation. And this 
trade in women's dress is on so important a scale 
that well-to-do and talented people will engage 
in it, and can afford to retain the most dexterous 
and highly skilled artisans in their employ. 

Half the resources of Nature are pressed into 
the service : wool, silk, linen, cotton are not 
enough; "effects " must be obtained by the use 
of straw, of feathers, of fur, of shells, of beads, 
of gold dust — of anything, in short, that can 

22 



^f" 






TASTE 

add piquancy to the trimmings which fancy 
dictates, and which desire for novelty demands. 
But varieties of material, varieties of fabric, 
varieties of colour — enormous as these latter 
are in number when we think of them, in light 
and shade, in contrast and harmony — ^varieties 
of this sort are not enough : there must be 
constant change in the arrangement and re- 
arrangement of the parts, and in invention of 
new and startling features of detail. Now the 
dress must fit the figure tightly, now loosely; 
now the sleeve must be plain, now baggy as the 
wind; now the skirt must be single, now double 
or flounced — not from considerations of beauty 
or fitness, but because one or two leading 
modists say it is to be so. The head-dress, 
meantime, of course receives equal attention; 
and it becomes inevitable that all the acces- 
sories of jewellery, trinkets, furniture, and de- 
coration of the house should fall into the same 
or sympathetic hands — indeed, when once we 
have converted woman into a hook to hang 
clothes on, it becomes necessary that the sur- 
roundings should be en suite. A mediaeval lady 
was dressed in garments that were attractive 
whether she walked in turret or bower, because 
they were beautiful ; but if a modern French 
fashionable beauty is clothed in a silk whose 
merit is its novelty of colour, it becomes a neces- 

23 



BEAUTY AND ART 

sity that the new colour should be repeated in 
the boudoir, or set off by contrasts in the furni- 
ture, till the very walls themselves are covered, 
not by storied tapestry or fresco, but with 
quilted silk like the women's dresses ! ! ! The 
modist has become an upholsterer, the uphol- 
sterer a modist^ and the occupant of the house 
a dummy to show off their productions. 

But even these resources for the creation of 
haute nouveautd are insufficient : more dex- 
terous and telling appeals to the admiration must 
be addressed to palates satiated with change. 
Dressing is not enough, there must also be 
i^^dressing; and here we may see the true 
character of much of the race after fashion 
among the class who " set " or follow fashions. 

The French, of course, did not invent the 
decolletd dress. It was simply the natural 
outcome of the first woven dress ever made — 
a single garment with a large hole in the middle 
to admit the head. But they showed themselves 
very ready, after their fashion, to exaggerate it, 
and one has only to look at the prints of the 
last century to find out how far the exaggera- 
tion went. In fact, it is well known that a French 
actress who visited London lately had thought 
it best to get rid of the bodice altogether. 

This is not a moral essay, and it is quite im- 
material to our present purpose to inquire 

24 



TASTE 

what amount of indulgence ought to be granted 
to a healthy and well-reined animalism ; I am 
seeking to disentangle the popular admiration 
for " French taste " from the mists of glamour 
and false sentiment by which it has been sur- 
rounded, and this can only be done effectually 
if we carefully examine its springs of action, 
and test them at the fountain-head, — (for Paris 
is the fountain-head, beyond all doubt). 

It requires the abandon possessed by the 
French to dare to originate such fashions^ and 
to be the first to wear them ; and I have gone 
at some length into a question which can only 
parenthetically belong to this treatise, because 
I believe that this insane race after French 
fashions forms one of the great obstacles in 
the way of attaining a true " taste " — of having 
a simple and wholesome judgment in the design 
and colour of our clothes, our furniture, our 
trifles of luxury and ease. And if I have shown 
that the stream is impure from the fountain — 
that French taste does not flow from a love of 
beautiful things for beauty's sake, but through a 
love of fashion and display aroused quite irre- 
spectively of true taste, and only from a desire 
of public 'eclat — we may well look askance at 
all such matters coming from France, and not 
be surprised if we find that they have trampled 
upon every law of the beautiful, 

25 



w 



BEAUTY AND ART 

I cannot, of course, forget that a large pro- 
portion of women are happily too modest and 
too sensible to accept extreme French fashions. 
Some refuse them altogether, and a still larger 
number tone them down to suit their own 
sense of what is decorous and becoming ; but 
in considering the effect of " Fashion " upon 
society, it is instructive to observe the very 
wide extent to which the fashion of partial 
nudity of the arms and bust has been followed 
among women otherwise perfectly modest, and 
in coteries only quite moderately fashionable. 

But fashions and • novelties of dress gain 
their hold on us unfairly as it were, evade our 
critical powers, and obtain a hold upon us 
through our lower senses. 

Women are beyond doubt the decorative 
and pleasurable side of life, so to speak; the 
lights and ornaments of our homes ; and it is 
not only their interest but their duty to pre- 
sent themselves to us in the most interesting 
and attractive manner possible, so long as that 
manner be consistent with a modesty originally 
supplied by that deep and innate leaning towards 
chastity, which only the most gross and corrupt 
eras in society have ever broken down. Now, 
when a comely and attractive woman, desiring 
to look her best, and conscious perhaps of per- 
sonal beauty, of symmetry of figure, of grace of 

26 



■SBdEE 



^ 



TASTE 

carriage, presents herself before us, even in an 
extreme Parisian fashion, in which she feels no 
immodesty because she knows that " Society " 
has endorsed her costume, our critical faculties 
as to the art of her dress are not called into 
action, nay, are hoodwinked and hustled away 
— the appeal is to our affections — our judg- 
ment is taken by storm ; the tout ensemble is 
pronounced good, and once more up goes the 
acclaim in favour of " French taste." 

But the very foremost axioms of good taste 
may have been defied a hundred times in the 
process, and colours and patterns may have 
been tolerated for their novelty which even a 
modist of experience must know to be utterly 
bad, when judged by any sound standard. 

It may be useful here to notice two very 
prominent examples exhibiting French design 
in its true colours, because in each we may fairly 
argue that the designer is in sober earnest and 
not merely running after novelty in playful 
caprice. 

Who that is familiar with the external aspect 
of an English country-house, inartistic for the 
most part, but unpretentious, much altered, and 
rejoicing in its lack of symmetry, quaintly defiant 
of architectural proprieties, radiant in its jessa- 
mine and ivy and roses, and half-hidden in ever- 
greens, can fail to be struck by the appalling 

27 



BEAUTY AND ART 

spectacle of a modern French house. With the 
design of a biscuit-box set up on end, with 
the flattest of roofs, always hipped — ^the very 
meanest kind of roof conceivable — ^rejoicing in 
sharply defined and conspicuous quoins at all 
the angles and openings, the intervening spaces 
being often plastered and whitewashed — inten- 
tionally kept clear of climbing plants, and hold- 
ing itself up perkly and conceited, ostentatiously 
pretentious, it forms an object in the landscape 
only somewhat more hideous than the lopped and 
imtree-like trees with which it is* surrounded ! 

Mr. Ruskin has well said, that if a nation may 
anywhere be supposed to be entirely serious 'and 
in earnest, it is in its graveyards and memorials 
to its dead. Go to a modern French cemetery, 
and you find uglinesses which it has surely been 
reserved for the French alone to invent and find 
delight in. To mention two only: the most 
approved form of memorial cross is a sort of 
cast-iron skeleton, a fanciful open trellis affair, 
losing sight of the whole idea and nature of the 
Cross of Calvary ; and this they paint black and 
white to make it " telling " ! The old " immor- 
telle " wreath of yellow gnaphalium was at least 
pleasant and suggestive; but modern French 
craving for novelty has cast it aside, and sub- 
stituted a "wreath" of beads set on wire, at 
once losing the ring-like form, and so the em- 

28 



TASTE 

blematical value; its centre filled with foolish 
sentimental legends also done in beads and wire, 
and forming altogether one of the most hideous 
things on earth. Any one rejoicing in " French 
taste *' should pay a visit to the statuary shops 
in the street leading to Pere la Chaise : those 
in our own Euston Road are not exhilarating, 
but these have the smell of the charnel house 
and the imbecility of the lunatic asylum mar- 
vellously combined. 

in so large a range of industries carried on 
by a nation of fifty millions of very industrious 
and clever people, it would be wonderful indeed 
if there were no exceptions to any rule we might 
prove to prevail ; and, curiously enough, the 
French are great admirers of Oriental art, and 
good copiers of it (on account, perhaps, of its 
piquancy and novelty to them) ; but with this 
and some other exceptions, French " taste " is 
utterly and wholly corrupt and bad, both in 
essence and in end, and it exercises the worst 
possible influence on the aesthetic perceptions 
of both Europe and America. 

It will be replied, perhaps, " Ah, but much 

of the so-called ' French taste ' you see, crude 

and staring, inharmonious and conspicuous, is 

not really French, but is an English travesty. 

We get French fashions, and, copying them 

without their dexterity, vulgarise and befool 

29 



BEAUTY AND ART 

them." This is probably very true about a 
large proportion of articles of women's dress 
made in this country after French fashion-books ; 
but how about the things actually sent from 
France — the magenta and "night green," and 
"Aniline" violet silks and ribbons, the chintzes 
and muslins, the china and bronzes? It will 
not be denied that these exhibit French " taste " 
truly. It is also undeniable that it is from 
France, principally, that we get the detest- 
able fashion which has set in of late years for 
loading our sitting-rooms with all manner of 
useless, showy, and tricky trifles of no manner 
of use whatever, and giving them a fussy and 
fidgety aspect, which is, to a rightly ordered 
mind, exasperating. Not only must the backs 
of chairs have fancy towels — knotted and other- 
wise — but even flower-pots must be draped, the 
very earth the plant grows in must be hidden by 
silk ; while the table is crowded with innumer- 
able objects, worthless, useless, and disturbing. 
And as if this was not enough, the wall must be 
bedizened with photographs in fancy frames, 
accompanied, more or less, by a quantity of 
ribbon. The top of the dado is increased until 
it becomes a stand for all sorts of abominations ; 
and every available space, the tops of cabinets, 
little side tables, shelves below those tables, &c., 
must be crowded with fancy rubbish ; not to 

30 



TASTE 

mention sham easels, imitation bee-hives, straw 
hats, and other ridiculous nonsense, which are 
not only distressing to the general effect, but are 
exceedingly cumbrous to those who want to 
move about in the room, and are being con- 
tinually swept out of their places by the dresses 
of the occupants. 

The fidgety unrest produced in such rooms, 
and tolerated, not to say enjoyed, by their 
owners, indicates strikingly the deterioration of 
taste which set the rubbish in its place. Nothing 
but "Fashion" could have made such an ex- 
hibition possible. No love of the beautiful for 
beauty's sake could have brought into existence 
the fussy little table covered over with silver 
trinkets; which, it must be confessed, is the 
least objectionable of all these modern fashions. 
Indeed, this deterioration having once set in, 
there is nothing which is impossible : the victims 
will go to the length of any folly which is sup- 
posed to be fashionable. 

Truly this is a bad school for the education 
of our taste ; and improvement is scarcely pos- 
sible with such surroundings. 

An escape into the garden, the wood, and 
the field must somehow be secured : for there 
Nature can be studied. For it is to Nature we 
must look for relief from such rubbish, and for 
a standard of beauty besides. Much may be 

31 



1 



BEAUTY AND ART 

done, no doubt, in the study, the picture^allery, 
the museum, to produce a healthy tone in the 
imagination so afflicted; but Nature is the 
better school ; and those who will patiently 
study the sky, the hills, the woods, the foliage, 
the flowers, will find there their best anodyne. 
It is not necessary for this purpose to go to 
Scotland, or to Switzerland, or to the Andes. 
Let the student take the nearest hedgerow out of 
reach of the modern row of villas, and he will 
find abundant study before him. Let him learn 
to understand the beauty of a bank of wild 
thyme with its apparently violent contrast of 
bright green and bright red, and how it becomes 
possible for such contrast to become beautiful, 
through that infinite power of gradation which 
Nature alone can show him. To learn from 
whence arises the beauty and charm of the 
azalea leaf or the columbine, or even the foliage 
of the humble carrot after the first autumn 
frosts, will be a lesson that cannot be taught by 
books. It may then become possible for him 
to find delight nearer home, in the foliage of 
sea-kale, or even of the friendly cabbage. A 
new door will be open to him for fresh beauties 
in Nature, always existing, but seen now with 
another pair of eyes ; and, if the physiologists 
tell us true, enjoyed with fresh cells of the 
brain, which have been formed for the pur- 

32 



wmmmummmmmmmmmmmmnmm 



TASTE 

pose. The museum, the picture-gallery, the 
sculpture-room may follow; and if we must 
still go to France, let it be to the Louvre. In 
time there may be a chance for the patient and 
careful student to learn beauty for its own 
sake, and to produce, according to the degree 
of natural aptitude he or she may possess, a 
delightful " taste," which shall be a joy for 
ever. 



-?r 



33 



1 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 



HOW TO SEEK— WHERE TO FIND 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

HOW TO SEEK— WHERE TO FIND 

51 HAT do we mean by beauty? A 
S sensation of delight, resulting from 
m the fitness and completeness of a 
B picture which is offered to the eye, 
the ear, or the mind ? It may be Nature, or Art, 
or a poetical idea, music, what not ? The field 
is wide, and ever widening. Beyond doubt, 
our forerunners of even sixty years ago regarded 
mountains, rocky hills, and uncultivated ground 
as " cruel " and " horrid," We, on the con- 
trary (thanks, perhaps, to Sir Walter Scott), 
regard them as beautiful ; so that the remark, 
" Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," con- 
tains more truth than one at first perceives, 
Moreover, the power to appreciate beauty truly 
arises from the education of the faculties, so 
37 



BEAUTY AND ART 

that in endeavouring to define what we mean by 
" beauty," we must presuppose some culture. 

But that is no reason for doubting the exist- 
ence of a real standard of beauty. India is no 
less our possession because there are outlying 
fringes which are not definitely under our rule. 
Nay, the very fact of that doubtful ownership 
of these outlying parts is of itself a proof of 
the admitted ownership of the rest. 

Nothing can be a greater mistake than to 
try and decide a question of beauty by quoting 
the well-known phrase, " It is a question of 
taste." This is merely a weak endeavour to 
shirk the complex and intricate questions at 
issue, and reveals the fact that most people do 
not care to face them, and would even like to 
make it appear that there is no such thing as a 
standard of beauty at all. 

It is extremely easy, in a matter of this sort, 
to puzzle each other, and to make hedges of 
paradox behind which disputants may retreat. 
" Why is olive green a more serviceable colour 
than emerald green.?" asks one. "Why is 
not mauve admissible as a colour for a wall ? " 
asks another. A third says, "How can you 
admire Italian decorative art in the face of 
German.?" We say, relatively speaking, that 
Westminster Abbey is beautiful, but that St. 
Pancras Railway Station is ugly. Whereon some 

38 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

one replies, " But is St. Pancras Station ugly ? 
And if Westminster Abbey is beautiful, and 
Gothic architecture most suitable for a reli- 
gious building, how do you come to admire 
St. Paul's ? '* And there are a thousand other 
such questions; to which the average citizen 
replies, " It is a question of taste, and there is 
no disputing about taste." 

Nothing can be more untrue and misleading, 
for it means (if it means anything at all) that 
there is no standard of right or wrong in 
such matters ; that many men judging differ- 
ently on one subject, are all right — clearly a 
paradox. A bad doctrine truly, and false all 
through. For it assumes that they are equally 
competent to judge ; that their tastes have been 
equally educated ; moreover, that they are edu- 
cated, having had opportunity to read widely and 
to study their subject. If they had had these 
advantages, then their diversity of opinion 
might be interesting and instructive; but the 
adage, as at present used, would not imply that 
at all. In an ignorant and illogical time it 
might pass muster for a while ; but we seem to 
have arrived, in the world's history, at a period 
when accurate (that is to say, scientific) reasons 
for most things are not only demanded, but, 
for the most part, to be had; and even Art 
questions must be treated with more scientific 

39 



BEAUTY AND ART 

exactness. A woman's reason, "I like it be- 
cause I like it/' will no longer suffice. 

Of course Mr. Ruskin, in his "Seven 
Lamps," " Modern Painters," and " Stones of 
Venice " has said much, and said it nobly, upon 
this subject; but his books alone are quite 
beyond the average reader, and, besides, are full 
of an empiricism which ruffles a good many 
students, and renders short extracts from his 
books impossible. If you read them all through, 
you arrive at the conclusion that their author 
knows eminently well what he is talking about, 
and that he ultimately gives reasons for all his 
statements, but it is done in a form which 
defies the "skipping" reader, and renders 
quotations all but impossible, unless you are 
quoting to his scholars and admirers. 

To such apparently puzzling questions as I 

have alluded, short answers cannot be given, 

unless they be excessively empirical ; and then, 

to many minds, they seem no answer at all. 

" You must like it " — " you ought to like it "— 

" it is fine colour " — " it is * noble form ' " — 

" the verdict of the ages is in its favour," &c. 

Some one of course will start up, mentally or 

actually, " How do we know but that the 

verdict of the ages niay be wrong ? I don't 

care to take it merely on your statement." 

Now, it is especially worthy of remark, on the 

40 



^^ip^MH^^p^i^^^^>ir«Vi^«v 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

threshold of the subject, that in these questions, 
where apparently the eyesight is mainly con- 
sulted, people are most confident in their own 
judgment, however uncultivated, and most im- 
patient of control. 

If a man of average education gets drawn 
into conversation about literature or music, he 
will hold his tongue when it comes to pro- 
nouncing judgment, seeing plainly that precise, 
or "scientific," knowledge is required before 
he can speak with credit to himself. But in 
regard to pictorial art, a very large proportion 
of people consider that their own eyes are suf- 
ficient to guide them to admire what is good, 
and to eschew the contrary. There are numbers 
of educated people who are as ignorant of Art 
as they are of Nature, who never open a book 
upon any such subject, who will yet go to the 
Royal Academy or the Louvre, and pronounce 
judgment right and left with an assurance, and 
apparent familiarity, which should only belong 
to the most experienced of experts. They 
think their eyesight is qualification enough. 

Nothing could be a greater mistake; such 
seeing is a mere animal instinct, as a rabbit 
sees a terrier and bolts. 

The reason of this mistake is not very 
evident. To be sure, literature demands a 
great deal of hard reading, and a pretender is 

41 



BEAUTY AND ART 

quickly found out; while music keeps the 
ignorant at a respectful distance by the mere 
difficulty of deciphering it. But it is not clear 
why people are cautious about confessing that 
they like dance-music, and find a Monday 
"Pop." very tedious, and are yet not at all afraid 
of declaring that they prefer the Royal Academy 
to the National Gallery ; further than this, that 
vulgar opinion on the subject holds much study 
and hard work as necessary for a knowledge of 
literature or music, but only a pair of eyes for 
art. Beyond doubt, but for the necessity, widely 
felt among people, who desire above all things 
to be in good "form," for speaking with caution, 
and even with some show of reverence, about 
things held sacred in museums and picture^al- 
leries, which have manifestly received the favour- 
able verdict of the ages, a large majority would 
confess their entire indifference, or even active 
dislike, to old art, so strenuous is its demand 
upon something more than mere eyesight for 
its right understanding. From the point of 
view of mere animal eyesight they can scarcely 
bear to look at it. 

Beyond doubt, we have to learn to see. No 
one ever quite sees a landscape until he has 
learnt to draw one ; no one ever truly sees the 
beauty of flowers until he has tried to represent 

them — their exquisite forms and subtle grada- 

42 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

tions ; or, what is not so pleasant, pulled them 
to pieces, and put them under the microscope. 
No one knows the everlasting hills till he 
has learned something of their geology, of the 
action of water in their ravines, of the action of 
ice in bygone ages — of their history, in fact. 

All this shows that the information ordi- 
narily passed to the brain by the eyes of those 
who have not specially studied the subject we 
are at present discussing, is quite incomplete 
and untrustworthy. It may guide us satis- 
factorily in the choice of a salad or a partridge 
for dinner, or to distinguish between a genuine 
Bank of England note and a note of the " Bank 
of Elegance," but it is wholly inadequate to 
help us to discriminate between good and bad 
colour, or base and noble form. 

So that the majority of people, trusting to 
mere animal eyesight and mother-wit, and not 
having time or inclination to correct and am- 
plify these by exact knowledge, acquire early 
in life bad habits of eyesight, feeble or diseased 
views of Nature and Art, which stick to them 
through life, and operate automatically, without 
special thought or action of the intellect : they 
only half-see anything, and that half they see 
badly. Nay, more; the eye, having become 
accustomed to bad colour and form, insensibly 
goes down the hill and demands something 

43 



BEAUTY AND ART 

worse and more stimulating; or, finding no 
great interest in such things at all, gives up 
even troubling itself with their existence, and 
settles down content with dull commonplace, 
without thought or desire. 

In the use of the eyes, then, no less than in 
natters of the appetite, man may be described 
as a machine apt to go wrong ; and just as we 
need instruction and guidance with regard to the 
finer details of conduct, and counsels of watch- 
fulness and temperance for our appetites, so do 
we need all these to teach us how to see aright. 

Distrust, therefore, first impressions of all 
visible objects; for even in the late summer 
and autumn of life, when we may have learned 
a good deal, mature and reconsidered judgment 
is still the safest. Nor should second or final 
impressions be considered of value until the 
subject has been well studied, and the scholar has 
learned at least how little he knows. 

And not only may we acquire, through im- 
perfect education, or early association, habits 
of thought, taste, and eyesight which are mis- 
leading and mischievous, but we may fall into 
a mode of life which renders us less and less 
competent to perceive and assimilate impres- 
sions of beauty. The man who spends his day 
in the drudgery of his ofl[ice, snatches what 
breathless time he can over his mid-day chop 

44 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

for the perusal of the daily paper, comes home 
worn out, and has no inclination for anything 
after dinner but the billiard-table or the chatter 
of his club smoking-room, is not very much in 
the way of acquiring correct notions about the 
treasures at South Kensington, the Louvre, or 
the Vatican, especially if on the few days he can 
snatch from business he devotes his time to un- 
diluted Epsom or Newmarket, to the cuisine of 
foreign hotels, or the folly of the '* day off," 
where the " form " of the turn-out, and of the 
girls, and the dryness of the champagne, are 
the foremost and all-absorbing topics of con- 
versation. 

But this is preamble ; only the outlines of so 
wide a subject can be touched ; and if we have 
spent too much time on scaffolding, we are no 
worse off than those excellent French buildej;^ 
who, when they have a house to build, first put 
up a crane high enough and far-reaching enough 
to raise the complete edifice. 

First, let us consider Beauty of Colour. 
Nature must be our text-book, though we must 
not for one moment suppose that the colouring 
of Nature, and of Art, can ever be thought of 
as identical. We will return to this question 
further on ; meanwhile it may be sufficient to 
bear in mind how much shorter is the gamut 
of colour possible in Art (this does not occur 

45 



BEAUTY AND ART 

to the ordinary reader or student, but the fact 
can easily be tested. Compare white paper 
with white clouds in high light, or a board 
painted black with the shadows cast by the 
mid-day sun) ; nevertheless, we can only turn 
to Nature for authority and text. 

What we want above all things is temper- 
ance. "Temperance," says Mr. Ruskin, "is 
the power that governs energy, and in respect 
of things prone to excess it regulates the 
quantity." Now, Nature is always temperate. 
I do not forget that she has produced mala- 
chite, the bell-gentian, the sunflower ; I do not 
forget the existence of many tropical flowers of 
great brilliancy — the Speciosisstmus cactus^ for 
instance; but with regard to this and similar 
plants of great showiness, it should be borne 
in mind, first, for how short a time this great 
brilliancy lasts — five or six days at most out 
of three hundred and sixty-five ; and secondly, 
what a moderate area there is of this gorgeous 
colour measured s^ainst the greens and greys 
and browns of the surrounding vegetation. 
But even in the case of the very gayest flower- 
ing plant ever seen, a careful examination will 
reveal the fact that what to the careless observer 
seemed a blaze of a certain tint, is in reality 
a mass of subtle gradations — of which more 
anon. 

46 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

A gorgeous sunset lasts but a few minutes 
out of the twenty-four hours, and is, even 
then, generally small in area compared with the 
whole arc of the heavens ; and it is so full of 
gradations, that observers argue, after it is gone, 
whether it was chiefly red, or chiefly yellow, or 
purple, orange, or grey. 

A field of spring grass, especially after 
thunder-rain, often seems dazzlingly brilliant; 
but sit down and try to draw it. There is 
one colour — emerald green — in an ordinary 
paint-box which, if you can use it at all, you 
must use in such small particles as at once to 
proclaim its unnatural crudity ; and yet this is 
the colour selected in all its untoned fierceness 
by our educated gentry for lining their billiard- 
tables, and by our neighbours, the French, for 
painting their shutters. But in this grass-field 
you will find infinite and perplexing gradations, 
such as you cannot follow with the brush, such 
as you can only hint at; the shadow of one 
blade lying on the next, one glossy in high 
light, the next half-coloured only, and in shade ; 
and if it should happen that you have in your 
pocket some of the blue or green paper bands 
used round envelopes, or some patterns of silk 
or merino from a shop, you will be astonished 
at their crudity and fierceness compared with 
the softness and gradations of Nature. 

47 



BEAUTY AND ART 

A student of colour soon finds out that 
beauty of colour begins with gradation, that 
the loveliness of graduated colour is so great 
that, relatively, level colour is not beautiful at 
all ; but he also finds out that there is no such 
thing as level colour in Nature — natural colour 
is always in a state of gradation. 

How many of us, having ideally schemed 
the colour of the walls or woodwork of a room, 
and having set the painter to work, have felt 
utterly chilled and disappointed at the result, 
have accused the workman of a " bad match," 
and when he proves that this is not so, we have 
turned away, puzzled and sick of the matter. 
It is because the painter has been straining 
every effort to give you a perfectly even colour, 
and we have felt instinctively that it was bad 
colour. 

Nature teems with gradations. For example, 
let me take the case of the bell-gentian, which, 
at first glance, seems about as crude a piece of 
violent colour as we can think of. This is a 
good flower to choose, because artists and deco- 
rators all know that a crude and violent blue is 
of all colours the most difiicult to deal with. 
Do not let us say a bad colour, because it is as 
incorrect to speak of any colour as " bad," as 
it would be to speak of arsenic, for instance, 
as a bad drug. Let us say a difiicult drug 

48 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

or colour to deal with, one where a. little will 
go a long way ; for both powder blue and 
arsenic may, each in turn, be both necessary 
and'desirable. 

Let us try to examine a gentian in detail. 
If a slit be cut a quarter of an inch wide, 
in a piece of card- 
board, divided down 
its centre by a fine 
thread, and a scale 
of eighths of inches 
marked down the 
sides, so that laying 
another card across 
the slit, and moving 

it downwards an 

eighth of an inch at 

a time, small squares 

of one-eighth of an 

inch each way are 

successively exposed, 

these may then be 

examined and cata- s«Ti,i.-f^. 

Ic^ued. The slit 

should pass twice across the brilliant lip of the 

flower, and across the centre or bell, and then 

down the outside of the bell to the calyx. It 

will be observed that we take no notice at 

present of the green leaves, though these are 
49 D 



^ 



BEAUTY AND ART 



an important factor in the general efFect, as 
one sees a mass of flowers growing. 

The colour of the tiny squares is seldom even 
approximately the same over its whole area, so 
that we are driven to give each square the value 
of four, and catalogue it as, say, 2 brilliant 
blue, I dark blue, i purple ; and by this sub- 
division we arrive at a total of 120 units. 

Not to weary the reader with dry detail, let 
us come at once to the result. Of the gaudy 
powder blue tint we cannot find so much as one- 
fourth of the whole ; but, of the same colour 
much deeper, one-eighth, and of purplish blue 
— no doubt quite as brilliant in its eflFect on 
the eye as the other two — one-sixteenth. 

Still, in this startlingly blue flower, not one- 
half is coloured as a careless observer would 
suppose the whole to be. We next come to 
one-sixth of blue, so dark as to be only dis- 
tinguishable from black in a strong light ; and 
the remaining colours may be called bluish- 
grey-black, dirty bluish-green, greyish indigo, 
dark and light, and actual apple-green, in spots 
a little way down the bell; so that, roughly 
speaking, this brilliantly blue flower is not 
half blue. 

The exceeding blueness of a gentian arises 
from the fact that all these greyish and partially 
blue and green tints lead up to the fierce blue 

50 



ic 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

of the lip ; it is a splendid instance of the force 
of gradation, the blueness of the blue being all 
the bluer to our eyes, because of the dulness 
of the other tints — a dulness, however, which 
is leading us up to the key-note, blue. 

We thus learn that Nature, even when she 
plays high, does so with a splendid moderation. 
But a lady who has made up her mind to a 
bright blue dress buys the whole quantity of 
that one tint. 

Let us now take another and quite a different 
case — the red mullet — perhaps the loveliest 
piece of colour to be found, after an opal ; — but 
then the opal will not lend itself to examina- 
tion as a dead mullet will. We all see mullets 
as rosy and tempting morsels on the fishmonger's 
stall, but those who will take the trouble to 
examine one, will find it a wonderfully com- 
plex and gorgeous piece of colouring. While 
it exhibits the power of gradation in Nature as 
perfectly as a gentian, they will find that it 
arrives at its splendour in a totally different 
way. The rosiest part of the fish is across the 
middle, a little nearer the tail than the head ; 
but the loveliest and most brilliant colour is 
generally nearer the head. 

Adopting the same system of examination as 
before, we arrive at eighth-inch squares of the 
value of 4, as before, and total units 260. This 

51 



BEAUTY AND ART 

excludes 32 units of glistening white, in which 
no colour at all is discoverable. 

Of very pale pink, full pink, deep pink, rich 
red, crimson, flame colour, and scarlet, all tell- 
ing upon the eye as rosy reds, not more than 
98 out of 260 could be discovered, or somewhat 
more than one-third; next, one-tenth of the 
whole in straw-colour and full gold (enhancing 
and leading up to the red, no doubt). But 
this is altogether, observe, less than one-half of 
the colouring of this red fish. 

Next, about one-thirteenth of primula, or 
deep purplish red. Primula, of course, is rich 
red tinged with blue, a colour not leading up 
to reds, but neutralising their redness. If we 
hand over half of this to the red part of the 
catalogue, we arrive at a trifle more than one- 
half (^ ths). After this, all the colouring of 

our bright red fish tells the other way; not 
detracting from its colour^ but very much from 
its redness — blues, greens, cold purples, olives, 
and greys (plus 32 white, nil\ 

To be sure, the pinks and golds are, for the 
most part, rich and powerful, and the other 
colours are thin and watery; still, remember 
we are measuring areas, not depths of efi^ect. 

But while granting this modification, is 
it not wonderful to find that the remaining 

52 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

tints of this red fish arrange themselves thus : 
blues, greens, and cold purples, 7 8 ; olives and 
greys, 37 ; and adding to these the cold half of 

the primula, we arrive at ^ ths, or very nearly 

one-half, of tints which do not go to make red 
at all, but detract from it ? 

In making studies of many beautiful coloured 
things — flowers, iridescence on pigeons' necks 
and shells, peacocks' feathers, fresh mackerel, 
and many other such things — one never comes 
upon a piece of brilliant colour which is not be- 
wildering and puzzling by the complexity with 
which harmonious and even opposing colours 
interlace and fade into each other. On the 
other hand, it is well worthy of notice that 
some natural objects, manifestly less attractive 
than others, as, for instance, the foliage of the 
common laurel, are found, on examination, not 
to be ungraduated, but feeble and monotonous 
(comparatively speaking) in their gradations. 

Thus we learn two lessons in colour : — 

First: Natural colour is always in grada- 
tion. 

Second: Natural colour is always teniperate. 

I propose to avoid quasi-scientific details : as 
to what colours are primary and what secondary, 
nobody is agreed, and it does not matter. But 
you will readily understand that when I speak of 

53 



BEAUTY AND ART 

crude blue I mean something like washer- 
women's powder blue. Crude green means what 
we often see in a German toy or a newly-painted 
Venetian blind; peacock blue, magenta, and 
strong aniline purple, are all crude colours; 
and that distinction will serve our purpose 
better than phrases about which people quarrel. 
Now, if we want to paint the wall of a room, 
or buy a dress, and for good reasons desire a 
red effect, and for sundry reasons, also good, 
find it impossible to use six or eight graduating 
tints, we must certainly avoid a brilliant magenta 
or crimson, because it would be, first, ungradu- 
ated, and, second, intemperate. Nature would 
probably have used a little magenta in combina- 
tion with other and softer tints, but we are 
debarred by time, expense, and other considera- 
tions. What are we to do.? Let us go to 
Nature, and see how she manages. Let us 
take careful note of the relative proportions of 
bright red, quiet dirty red, grey, brown, and 
faded tints, and mix our paint or dye accord- 
ingly. We shall probably arrive at a colour 
something between bricks and leather — a good, 
useful, pleasant colour, nice to live with, and 
hurting the feelings of nobody ; restful to the 
eye, and leaving a healthy appetite for red 
mullets, and other beautiful and brilliant reds, 
in Nature or fine art. 

54 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

And having thus learned a practical lesson 
from Nature, we should fearlessly stick to it; 
and in time we shall come to appreciate the 
value of quiet, moderate, tertiary tints. 

We should always doubt all amazingly attrac- 
tive, coloured things of human manufacture; 
and when the standard has thus been kept up 
for some years, we become conscious of a refined 
taste in colour, and can then revel in the colour 
of Nature, and in that of fine art also, whether 
it comes from the hand of Titian or Tintoret, 
Orchardson or Clara Montalba. And, as our 
perceptions strengthen, we find ourselves out 
of love with even pale and moderate colour, if 
it be level and without gradation; the lumpy 
bottom of a green glass bottle becomes at once 
a source of pleasure, where none is given by the 
thin even tint of the bottle itself. 

The eye becomes critical, and sees a new 
charm both in Nature and Art, and appreciates 
^^fine colour;'''' colour, not only temperate and 
in gradation, but in intricate and gorgeous in- 
termingling of splendid tints, such as one sees 
in the plumage of Oriental birds and butterflies 
— gold peering through crimson and flame — 
green and coppery mosses on grey rocks, or a 
portrait of Titian's, bronzy green velvet with 
gold braiding, against rosy flesh tints. A bit 
of fine colour becomes more precious than 

55 



BEAUTY AND ART 

diamonds ; old, faded Italian silks of more 
value than new ones ; old Indian rugs, stained 
and worn, better than any modern carpet. Our 
tastes become susceptible of offence about 
things that before seemed indifferent, and 
though it will always be a comfort to a man's 
wife that his shirts and table-linen should be 
snow-white, ivory seems white enough for any- 
thing, and in decorative work, whitey-brown 
paper is the best white there is. 

There are not a few people, desirous above 
all things that their surroundings should be in 
the highest taste, who are feverishly anxious 
and uneasy as to whether things will "go 
with " sundry other things, having mostly in 
their minds a fearful list of things which will 
not " go with " each other. Terra-cotta reds 
must not come near greeny blues — especially 
not near crimsony reds; reds of any sort do 
not "go with" greens and blues, &c. &c., and 
so on, and so on, ad lib. 

Now, it is worthy of notice that if one goes 
into the garden to gather a posy, a piece of 
house - decoration which some folk perform 
almost daily, one gathers flowers, as a rule, 
without any idea of what will " go with " each 
other, but simply the flowers that happen to 
be blowing, and of the right dimensions for the 
proposed posy; and, ninety-nine times out of 

56 



mmmmmmm^m 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

a hundred, the flowers so gathered " go with " 
each other delightfully. Why, then, should 
people be so nervous as to whether the pro- 
posed carpet will "go with" the proposed 
curtains? Clearly because the colour of one, 
or both, is bad — crude, violent, or without 
gradation ; and because, while the posy is well 
mingled with green and grey and neutral tints, 
the carpet and curtains are wholly or partially 
deficient in these. 

If any one wants to try whether this is a prac- 
tical fact, let him buy or borrow a really fine 
old Persian carpet, which will probably contain 
blues and greens, reds and yellows, orange, quiet 
purples, and whites of various degrees, in fact, 
almost as many colours as the garden posy, and 
he will find that the chances are enormously in 
favour of its looking well in any room in which 
he may throw it down, with an entire disregard 
for what may be already there. 

And, upon examination, it will be found 
that such a carpet, however gay it may look, 
will contain no crude or ungraduated colour 
whatever. Not only will its blue ground, for 
instance, prove to be made up, intentionally, of 
four or five blues, but each thread will be found 
to be similarly composed, perhaps without in- 
tention — a circumstance probably due to the 
Oriental habit of mixing various sorts of wool 

57 



BEAUTY AND ART 

and hair, or at least all the qualities of each ; 
while our spinners and dyers strain every 
nerve to make each fibre exactly match its 
fellows. 

Take care that each colour, in each article 
you buy, be soft, and graduated, and free from 
crudity, and then you may set them all together 
and be happy. 

To turn for a moment to Form. As grada- 
tion is the condition of beauty in colour, so 
curvature is the ground of all loveliness in 
form. I do not suppose any one will question 
this, because no one pretends to find beauty in 
an office ruler or a dahlia stick ; and if we see a 
very straight and unbending young woman, we 
say " she has swallowed a poker." 

Curvature is the groundwork of beauty, but 
temperance again is the ruling power. It would 
of course take far too long to analyse ever so 
slightly that touchstone of all beautiful curva- 
ture, the human form; but if any one wishes 
to see how severely temperate nature is, let 
him get a drawing of the human arm, and see 
how strenuously slight are the deviations from 
straight lines, and he will find also that the rest 
of the body of a young and healthy person is 
throughout of this character. 

One may find a hundred examples from 
Nature of this strenuously restrained curva- 

58 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

ture. One thinks of the leaves of holly and 
herberis as a multitude of exceedingly sharp 
and quickly rounded curves ; but a careful 
examination shows them to be practically 
squares, with quite little points added for 
prickles, and the space between prickle and 
prickle is very nearly a straight line — very 
nearly, but not quite. 

The alder leaf is practically a pentagon with 
the angles pared off a little, and only a little. 
A willow leaf is a collection of nearly straight 
lines, with delicate little curves at each end. 
An oleander leaf is still more severe, and many 
aspects of it are all but straight lines. And the 
more one examines forms of this sort, the more 
one sees that vigorously restrained curvature is, 
in its restraint, the groundwork of beauty in 
form. 

To consider then the bearing of these facts 
on the choice of pictures, stained glass, wall 
decorations, furniture, cabinet ornaments, car- 
pets, and curtains, all the hundred odds and 
ends of our house; and last, but by no 
means least, dress. But this is a wide field, 
and, for practical purposes, may be narrowed 
down to the questions of wall decoration and 
patterned objects generally; for these are, as 
it were, central in the group, and likely to 
throw light upon the others. 

59 



BEAUTY AND ART 

To clear the ground before we begin to 
buildy let it be taken as an axiom with the 
utmost distinctness, that we must never look 
upon copies of Nature, however accurate they 
be, as anything more than the alphabet and 
primer for the artist and decorator — an alphabet 
very necessary, in fact the only alphabet for the 
purpose, and absolutely indispensable, but only 
an alphabet or primer after all; the building 
materials, but never, under any circumstances, 
the building ; the means, but not the end. 

To take a practical instance, let us suppose 
that a gardener produces a new red rose, and 
that horticulturists agree to call it the Acme 
rose. The grower is naturally proud of it, and 
he employs Mrs. Allingham, for instance, to 
make a drawing of it. If she does it well, 
the matter is passing into the realms of art. 
But the grower is not content ; he calls on 
Shannon, for instance, to take a portrait of his 
wife holding the rose in her hand, or a spray 
of these roses across her bosom. We have 
now got into fine art. This is such a success 
that he wants these roses all over his drawing- 
room wall, and he goes, or would a few weeks 
ago have gone, to that master of art decoration, 
now, alas ! at rest from his helpful labours, — 
William Morris, and said, " Decorate me these 

walls with my Acme rose." " Well, but," 

60 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

Morris would have replied, "this won't do; 
your walls would be all over red dots. Besides, 
I can't give you all these lovely details at any 
price that a sensible man would pay. I must 
simplify it, and moderate your reds and greens. 
I must also get rid of a quantity of light and 
shade, and flatten it, so to speak." 

Supposing it well done, we have passed 
downwards from fine art to decorative art. 
But the rose-grower wants to carry the thing 
a step further — he wants his rose as a decora- 
tion for a dinner-service, and he goes to Wedg- 
wood. " Well," says Wedgwood, " but we 
must get this rose pattern into a condition 
which ordinary draughtsmen and printers and 
potters can deal with; we must reduce it to 
one or two tints, and simplify it further even 
than Morris did." 

So we arrive, by an inevitable process, at flat, 
conventional patterning. In the earlier part of 
our argument, we arrived at the sheer necessity 
of using quiet, tertiary tints where gradation of 
colour was unattainable " at the money." Thus 
the Acme rose pattern has arrived, inevitably, 
at flat formality of outline and greys, or only 
suggestions of green and red in colour, while 
sense of projection has disappeared entirely. 

Broadly, \nfine art, there are no limits to the 

legitimate representation of form, projection, 

6i 



BEAUTY AND ART 

colour, but those necessarily incidental to all the 
works of man viewed in relation to Nature. But 
as you come down in the scale, stained glass, 
painted frieze, brocaded silk, wall paper, striped 
cotton print, the limitations become many and 
severe, by sheer necessity, and apart from ques- 
tions of taste, and to refuse to bow to them 
indicates stupidity and blindness. Temperance 
steps in, and enjoins moderation and simplicity 
in curvature, gradation and sobriety in colour : 
you have admitted the axioms, accept the 
result. 

Moreover, the limitations in fine art, which 
we have called incidental to all the works of 
man, are in reality very considerable ; for, firstly, 
the most skilful eye and hand the world has 
known could never reproduce the intricate and 
overwhelming detail of the colours of Nature, 
not to mention subtleties of minute form. And 
even if we were not thus limited (which under 
favourable circumstances might conceivably be 
the case), there remains, secondly, the fact 
already alluded to, viz., that the gamut or 
scale of art is far shorter, both in light and 
shade and in colour, than that of Nature. 

No white paint or paper can approach the 

whiteness of a cloud illumined by sunshine, and 

no black paint is as dark as the shadow, say, of 

a tree thrown by strong sunlight against a pale- 

62 



v*i 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

grey limestone wall. The bluest paint is a 
feeble thing compared with the azure of the 
heavens; and though some pigments are too 
fierce for our imperfect handling, seeing that 
we cannot follow the delicacy of Nature's 
gradations, yet at every turn the student of 
Nature finds tints in nature too dazzling for 
reproduction. He has only, therefore, humbly 
to follow his guide at a respectful distance ; 
and, just as we say one had better not bark if 
he cannot bite, so the accomplished artist finds 
out what he can do and what he had better 
avoid. He begins to understand what is pos- 
sible in paint on canvas; and partly by the 
experience of the past, and partly by the light 
of his own perceptions, he recognises the limits 
of his art, and arranges his scale of colour 
and light and shade in accordance with those 
limits. And so, gradually but inevitably, 
colouring in art has arrived at a condition 
which, originally framed on that of Nature, 
has come to the average observer to appear 
wholly distinct. 

To put the matter into the most practical 
form. We all know the beautiful metallic- 
blue butterfly from South America, Cypro- 
morpho by name. Let us suppose that a 
lover of realism desires to have this most 
lovely creature well copied, and that a copyist 

63 



BEAUTY AND ART 

with a good eye for colour, and the touch of 
an Oriental, takes the utmost pains to accom- 
plish it — that he works on a ground of silver, 
in the purest Prussian blue — it is conceivable 
that a very admirable, realistic representation 
might be produced. 

It is now desired, let us suppose, to intro- 
duce it as a detail into a picture. But it 
is quickly discovered that this is impossible : 
materials and pigments do not exist with which 
we can copy other brilliant objects in an equi- 
valent manner, and it is perceived that if they 
did nobody could bear the result ; for the blue 
butterfly already painted stands out as a flaring 
spot, like an electric light at a railway station ; 
and thus two insurmountable barriers declare 
that the attempt must be given up. It is not 
a question of degree^ it is one of kind. Where 
is the loose screw.? In the mistake made by 
a large number of people in supposing that art 
is a copy of Nature. A copy of Nature (as 
much of a copy, that is, as the human eye and 
hand are capable of) may be a stepping-stone 
or handmaid to Art, a scafiblding on which to 
stand while building ; but never, as we have 
mentioned before, the building — Art itself. 

True Art is a representation of Nature ; and 

a representation, to be true and good, must be 

such as to produce in. the mind of the spectator 

64 



^^^^^-^irr^'awmB-^^ > va 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

sensations fairly equivalent to those produced 
by Nature herself. 

And here steps in the creative faculty of the 
artist. He perceives the enormous difference 
in the conditions. The blue butterfly, dancing 
with his fellows in the light of a southern sun, 
surrounded by leagues of soft atmosphere, by 
greys and blues of distance, and greens and 
browns of forest and fell, is one thing; the 
blue butterfly pinned on a cork in a studio, 
with a background of drapery or canvas, is 
quite another, and to confound them is unpar- 
donable muddling. There is no southern sun- 
shine or any other sunshine in the studio ; the 
scale of possible colour falls far short of the 
top, and finishes far above the bottom; the 
whole thing must be altered and arranged to 
suit the altered conditions, and, with the re- 
arrangement, the silver ground and most of the 
Prussian blue disappears. 

And all this applies as truly, in degree, to 
good decorative work as to high art, and as 
much to form as to colour. 

Those who have gone through the course of 

study from Nature indicated by these remarks, 

may continue their education at museums and 

picture-galleries. Here are the treasures of the 

past which will form the best of all schools, 

Nature excepted, and there they can study a 

65 E 



BEAUTY AND ART 

fresh chapter of their subject, the difference, 
namely, between noble and ignoble form — 
between what is elevating in motive, and what 
is base and degrading ; and we shall constantly 
find that the painters who offend in this respect 
are precisely those whose colour is violent, and 
whose form is wanting in restraint. South 
Kensington is an infinite treasure-house to 
learn in, and to think about in after years. 
We should go there continually. Our own 
National Gallery, the Louvre, and Florence, it 
need not be said, may complete the studies, 
and even help us to understand and appreciate 
such painters as Giotto, Cimabue, Andrea del 
Sarto, and Botticelli. 

But in daily life let us avoid all ugly and 
crude colours, and base and ignoble subjects, as 
we avoid bad smells; and when we go to a 
fresh place let us make at once for the Parish 
Church, if it be an old one. For the tight grip 
in which the earning of our daily bread holds 
most of us, so commonly prevents our visiting 
museums and picture-galleries as often as we 
ought, that we may find ourselves shut up 
among the base and dull and ignoble things, 
like offices, and railway stations, and hotels, 
for months together. So, whenever there is a 
chance to get, even for a quarter of an hour, 
among objects of noble intention, or possible 

66 



a n 'n 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

beauty of form and colour, we should eagerly 
seize it. Now, old architecture will always be 
found to have some element of beauty in it: 
shaft or arch or bit of carving, stained glass, 
old woodwork, or sculptured tomb ; and we may 
get more real pleasure and profit out of a habit 
of making for the " old church," than out of 
all the theatres, drapers' and jewellers' shops, 
hotel dinners, and picnic parties which we have 
ever seen or ever can see. 

It is worthy of remark, that in stained glass 
— quite the most beautiful form of decorative 
art — we have all agreed, for generations past, 
not to be hindered by the very severe limita- 
tions and conditions under which the artist has 
to work; and I suppose no one ever thought 
of ordering a stained-glass window to be done 
to " Nature." We recognise the propriety of 
strong lines round many forms which we know 
do not exist in Nature ; we are satisfied that a 
distinguished person should have a glory, like 
a dinner-plate, round the head, and that the 
whole work should be permeated by broad 
(lead) lines of black — lines which no one of 
experience ever dreams of trying to dispense 
with. 

Sir Joshua Reynolds, in the Chapel of King's, 
Cambridge, endeavoured to get rid of these 
lines, and his failure is a warning to us all to 

67 



BEAUTY AND ART 

keep clear of such realistic experiments in 
decorative work. 

With trifling exceptions, old art must always 
be preferable to modem art, at least for this 
generation and the next. 

And if we are asked to assign a reason for 
so formidable a statement, we should reply that 
no one who has seen, with his eyes open, such 
a collection of fine and decorative art as that 
at South Kensington, can be unaware of the 
marvellous superiority of the work handed down 
to us from the fourteenth to the seventeenth 
centuries (putting Greek art out of the question 
for the moment), in pictures, in sculpture, in 
wall decorations, in embroidery, in ironwork, in 
pottery — in all departments indeed of fine and 
decorative art that the men of those centuries 
put their hands to. No painter of this day 
pretends for one moment that any man alive 
can paint as well as Michael Angelo, Raphael, 
Titian, and many other Italians; no StaflFordshire 
potter, or any other potter elsewhere, pretends 
or maintains that he can produce anything equal 
to the best lustre-ware of mediaeval Italy — and 
so it is through all these arts. 

We ask why ? The answer is, that art was 

then traditional ; that is to say, a painter or 

handicraftsman was brought up to the craft 

of his father and grandfather, and simply and 

68 



mm 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

naturally produced the article he had been 
taught to produce from boyhood. And so 
it came to pass that, in the centuries I have 
alluded to, Europe was full of young men 
trained from boyhood to their respective crafts ; 
it was their pride to carry on the family tradi- 
tion, and it was the delight of the wealthy 
soldier, statesman, ecclesiastic, or burgher to 
vie with each other in buying their wares. 
History and its record in the museums amply 
testify to the truth of this. 

Now all is changed. Traditional art has 
utterly died out ; each man is a free-lance, 
and launches out at manhood into what he has 
then to learn how to do; and the temptation 
commonest to most of us is to go into those 
classes of business which require little appren- 
ticeship and mainly " sharpness,*' leading more 
quickly to wealth, than any sort of art or craft. 
And even in the realms of art itself, there seems 
an extraordinary desire — fever, may it not be 
called ? — to rush into untrodden paths. 

A very large number of youthful designers 
and artists seem only anxious to design what 
they call novelty, even at the expense of stamp- 
ing out tradition entirely — a sort of desire to 
fly in the face of tradition and get their fame 
or money simply through the quality of strange- 
ness which they are able to put into their work. 

69 



BEAUTY AND ART 

And if, in the practice of more legitimate art or 
decoration, any man rise out of the ruck of the 
commonplace, it is to be accounted for in one 
of two ways — either that he is a kind of genius, 
and so naturally out-tops his fellows, or that 
he possesses, in a high degree, the faculty of 
assimilating and reproducing the treasures of 
the past, which, after all, is perhaps only 
another form of genius. 

So that, violent as it may sound, we should, 
I fear, look with grave doubt and incredulity 
upon all modern productions in fine or deco- 
rative art. I do not, of course, say that we 
should look upon them with scorn or with 
contempt, but with incredulity, until, after a 
rigid application of our axioms, we see here 
and there a form start out from the all but 
universal slough of degradation into which we 
have fallen ; and then, whether it be a picture 
by Millais or Burne-Jones, a church of Butter- 
field's, a house of Norman Shaw's, a stained- 
glass window by Morris, such names should be 
held in memory, and their work looked for 
with anxiety and interest. Considering, how- 
ever, the scarcity of such men, our daily food 
in art, in good colour and form, must be sought 
for at the British Museum, at the National 
Gallery, at South Kensington, the Louvre, and 

such-like places. 

70 



^R^^^^^^^^-:— -^^^^^^■'p^— — •^■^■iB^^"*!! 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

There is a further reason for this, not so 
obvious, but possibly even more important. 

It seems to have been clearly perceived in 
the best days of mediaeval art, that the true 
function of art consists in the embodiment 
and representation of the ideal — the poetical. 
It may be an open question whether this was 
largely a result of the great demand, from 
ecclesiastics and others, for pictures of religious 
subjects, or whether it was a mediaeval condi- 
tion of mind which passed away with the arrival 
of advanced forms of "progress." But nothing 
is more certain than that all the finest art that 
has come down to us from Giotto to Raphael 
(and a great deal that was earlier and later) is 
ideal in the highest degree, and almost with- 
out exception poetical. As to the question 
of ideality, let us take a single example, as a 
specimen of the spirit which permeates their art. 

No subject is more common, in the finest 
period of art, than the Nativity, or the Adora- 
tion of the Kings. In either case, the infant 
Christ must have been of extremely tender age ; 
yet nowhere is He represented as a new-born 
infant — always as a plump, well-developed child 
of six to twelve months old — an ideal baby^ in 
fact — in direct disregard of the text of the 
history it was to illustrate. 

The question of poetical treatment as apart — 

71 



BEAUTY AND ART 

if it can be apart — ^from ideality, is less easy to 
exhibit in a moderate compass ; but no reflec- 
tive person can visit the National Gallery, and 
then the Royal Academy, without perceiving 
the strong contrast in feeling between the two 
in style, in frame of mind, in eflFect on us. It 
is again not a diflference in degree^ it is a differ- 
ence in kind. One ranks with Holy Scripture, 
with Chaucer, with Spenser, with Shakespeare ; 
the other with Darwin, with Herbert Spencer, 
with the magazines, with the Times. This 
divergence is exactly the divergence between 
poetry and prose. 

Poetry and mediaeval art come upon us as 
somewhat strange, somewhat weird and myste- 
rious, rather difficult, requiring all our patience, 
and often more than all our wits, to compre- 
hend and to assimilate. But once compre- 
hended and taken to heart, they become the 
constant companions of our better selves ; they 
cherish and amplify our highest aspirations; 
they lift us up for a while into a finer and 
purer atmosphere, and, whether we know it or 
not, they elevate us above the dust and rubbish 
of our daily lives. 

But modern realistic art, magazines and news- 
papers, are friendly and easy, chatty and jocose 
as boon companions ; they appeal instantly to 

the meanest capacity; make us happy, maybe, 

72 



3^ 



■q|T97l'^'**^^^^'*'*'^^""^""*"**0''"'"*V<*P*VW>^ W'f* WIMJIl 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

as a meal does ; make us laugh ; help us to 
pass the time. But they leave us just where 
we were, in the City or in Bond Street, in the 
office or the stable. 

We have lately heard a good deal about the 
general improvement in taste which is supposed 
to have taken place during the last few years. 
There has been a great deal of change, but has 
there been any improvement ? 

To be sure, there are many people of culti- 
vated taste to be found — people who instinc- 
tively avoid loud and vulgar things — ^there 
always were ; though, of course, when " society " 
was smaller, they were much fewer in number. 
These people find it now-a-days easier to obtain 
unobjectionable dress, furniture, and household 
stuff, than it used to be ; and, beyond doubt, a 
trade of a limited extent has been created by 
such people, so that they now know where they 
can find what they want, often ready in stock. 
But when we consider the enormous increase 
during the last thirty years in the number of 
families who can spend ;^6oo a year and up- 
wards, it is evident that the trade in moderate 
and well-designed articles is relatively small and 
exceptional ; and any one who wil 1 take the 
trouble to go through some of the huge fur- 
nishing warehouses in Tottenham Court Road 
and Finsbury, to go no further, may readily 

73 



BEAUTY AND ART 

discover that every vile and violent shade that 
dyers can dye (and they are infinitely viler than 
they were or could be forty years ago, before 
the general introduction of aniline), every pre- 
posterous form of chair, cabinet, or sofa origi- 
nated in the most degraded times of George IV., 
is still completely in vogue with a large propor- 
tion of buyers, and is ten times oftener asked 
for than anything quiet or moderate. 

Moreover, everything must now be both low 
priced and highly ornamented ; and among the 
exigencies so created, there arise terrific visions 
of all kinds and sizes — lamps, coal-boxes, cheap 
jewellery, pictures, and chimney-piece orna- 
ments, easy-chairs, curtains — a thousand and 
one terrors which percolate into our houses. For 
our friends give them to us, even if we carefully 
abstain from buying them (who does not know 
of the young bride who hardly dares to show 
some of her wedding presents !). They are not 
only devoid of any one sign of education, or 
cultivation in their designer, but are manifestly 
the production of grossly vulgar and illiterate 
people, and determinedly trample on every 
canon of decent taste or propriety. 

Possibly those who think they can see an 
improvement are misled, partly by the exist- 
ence of such a shop as Mr. Morris's, and partly 
by the recent fashion of wearing quiet and 

74 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

tertiary shades in dress. But this is only a 
fashion, and if fashion dictates magenta as 
the colour for dress next year, magenta will be 
worn triumphantly ; * while as for the trade in 
goods of the character of Mr. Morris's pro- 
ductions, it is as a drop in the ocean. 

There are two articles usually to be found in 
the houses of people who can afford to spend 
twelve hundred a year and more (who may 
roughly be taken to represent our upper and 
educated class), a grand piano, and a billiard- 
table. 

They are about the very ugliest things on 
the earth ; and partly from there being only the 
very feeblest desire to see them improved, and 
partly from a fear of what Mrs. Grundy will 
say if they are altered, they have remained a 
hideous eyesore for fifty years and more. There 
is absolutely no reason worth the name why 
both of them should not at least have good 
mouldings and well-designed legs, and there 
is every reason why a billiard-table should be 
lined with a temperate green, restful to the eye, 
instead of the very crudest and fiercest colour 
that can be dyed; yet there they stand, two 
ugly blots in almost every large house in the 
land. Look again at the houses recently erected 

* This, though only written a few years ago, has become 
a fulfilled prophecy : witness the hat-trimming of 1896. 

75 



BEAUTY AND ART 

and those in course of erection by the specu- 
lating builder — say in South Kensington or 
Chelsea — houses of ;^200 to ;^500 a year 
rental, and see to what ornament he treats ladies 
and gentlemen : his cornices, his grates and 
chimney-pieces, his balusters, his terrible stained 
glass ! But the speculating builder is generally 
a very clever and acute fellow, feels the pulse 
of the times, knows "what people like,*' and 
gives it, and in consequence he lets his houses 
in good situations fast, no matter how vile and 
vulgar be his ornamentations. 

When such houses do not let because they 
are done in bad taste, and ladies and gentle- 
men have reformed their pianos and billiard- 
tables, we may begin to believe in the general 
taste having improved — but not sooner. 

Meanwhile, we should try and keep a clean 

palate. Do not ever be persuaded, however 

gorgeous the doorway, to visit catch-penny 

exhibitions of doubtful pictures — no matter 

whether they be surrounded by maroon velvet 

or hot-house plants. Avoid all things that are 

much advertised and puffed, even if the premises 

be in Bond Street. Never be entrapped into 

admiring new hotels, even if there be luncheon 

for nothing ; and as for our homes (where we 

can to some extent regulate our surroundings), 

we cannot possibly be too exacting or careful 

76 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

to keep out showy rubbish. We should never 
buy foolish or ignoble photographs on any 
consideration whatever, and if we have them 
given to us, we should wait till the donor 
is out of sight, and then promptly burn 
them. 

When we see vulgar advertisements we should 
turn our heads the other way ; similarly, with 
representations of French priests grinning, or 
gobbling oysters, or being shaved (if we all of 
us avoided buying the soap of people who so 
offend, we might at least abate that nuisance), 
or coarse pictures of impossibly fat monks 
drinking beer, or vulgar caricatures of public 
men. Photographs from life are also to be 
avoided, or accepted in homoeopathic quantities 
— a worthless and generally ignoble form of 
so-called art, which fills up our rooms, unduly 
engages our attention, and stands to a good 
many people in the place of art — a vile im- 
posture. If we must have third-rate portraits 
of our friends, let them be kept in drawers. 
And let us rid ourselves of all crude and 
strongly coloured wall-papers, carpets, or cur- 
tains — things with feeble and prominent and 
meaningless designs ; emerald green or magenta 
crochet mats for plants to stand on. All this 
supposed-to-be-harmless but conspicuous rub- 
bish, even if it comes from Regent Street, should 

77 



BEAUTY AND ART 

be consigned to the kitchen fire. And our 
axioms, if well and rigidly applied, are quite 
sufficient to guide us safely to the purchase of 
fresh curtains, carpets, wall-papers, and chintzes. 
But perhaps some one will say, "You have burnt 
or banished most of our pictures and ornamental 
objects, — how are we to replace them? We 
can't do without some semblance of fine art 
on our walls, or bits of good ornament here and 
there ; you destroy, please replace." Without 
in the least admitting that these axioms would 
not suffice here also, one cannot deny the reason- 
ableness of the demand ; so there is added to 
this chapter a little appendix, giving ten items 
of fine art, at prices to meet the exigencies of 
all pockets, for the walls. 

Of course if we can go to Bond Street dealers, 
and commission them to buy things which would 
be welcome at South Kensington Museum, the 
affair is easy enough; but to buy really good 
art at prices between twenty shillings and twenty 
pounds is not so easy, no doubt. 

There is another aspect of the matter apply- 
ing strictly to art students and artists, but 
eventually, through them, to all of us. 

Artists are, in a great measure, our teachers. 
We learn more quickly through the eye than 
through the ear; and if we see frivolous and 
ignoble pictures, we think in those respects 

78 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

frivolously and ignobly. If, on the contrary, 
the artists take the highest view of their sub- 
ject, and lead us into a higher atmosphere, we 
follow them there ; so it is of the utmost im- 
portance to us as a nation to regulate what 
frame of mind, what temper^ what environment 
the artist shall have in his daily life. 

Take what may be supposed to be the popular 
art of the day, the art one finds in shop windows 
in Piccadilly and the Strand, and see what sort 
of subjects people rejoice in. I purposely 
avoid cultured art lovers, who admire Velas- 
quez, Gainsborough, and Turner, their number 
being inconsiderable, and the Art they admire 
is not " popular." Now, it will be found upon 
examination, that probably half of the popular 
art exhibited in our shop windows is of a sport- 
ing character, if not actually representing horses 
with jockeys on them, at least horses, dogs, 
gamekeepers, and that type. A fair proportion 
may be fancy pictures of the portrait type, 
mostly women — a good subject, no doubt, but 
frivolously treated. The rest are largely kittens, 
puppies, and commonplace scenes of country 
life, more or less ignoble subjects, rather grossly 
treated. From Germany we seem to get mainly 
a feeble sort of religious picture — noble ideas 
originally, no doubt, but dragged by artists of 
the level of Overbeck through the mud of a 

79 



BEAUTY AND ART 

commonplace im^ination, till they lose their 
charm and become no art at all. 

If we turn to France, things are still worse. 
Their art consists so largely in drawings of 
over-dressed and fast-looking girls, bent on 
making the best market of their charms, that 
the remainder do not seem worth mentioning. 
Frivolity and sensuality seem to be their lode- 
stars, and their art, such as it is, follows their 
attraction admirably. 

Now turn to the Italian popular art of 
mediaeval times. 

The comparison does not go on all fours, 
because the state of society and its consequent 
demands, and the appliances for satisfying these 
demands, did not then exist. But the popular 
art of that day may undoubtedly be seen at the 
British Museum, and the print shop where 
they sell the works of Tintoret, Titian, and 
the rest. 

The contrast is dispiriting. 

Are we to go forward in the race after frivo- 
lity and sensuality? It depends much upon 
artists and architects and the cultured class. 
If they will be true to the cultivation of real 
art instead of rubbish, much may be hoped. 
Unfortunately, as we advance in civilisation, 
it seems that Romance, the poetic side of us, 

which is to the human heart what the flower 

80 



BEAUTY IN FORM AND COLOUR 

is to the plant, dies out and disappears; and 
instead of following in the track of our great 
artists of the past, instead of cultivating in our 
students the art of dramatic intention, of deep 
and poetic thought and meaning, romantic situa- 
tion, suggestive poetry, high aspiration, we go 
in for teaching them mechanical exactness, end- 
less anatomy, extreme niceties in drawing and 
detail. This, for our students : for ourselves, 
cast iron, railways, telegraphs, electric lighting, 
huge hotels, and — dividends. 



8i 



APPENDIX 



HIGH ART FOR SHALLOW PURSES 

Chramo-lithographs after T^irnet^s Vignettes^ at 2s. 6d. 
each, exceedingly well copied, may be purchased from 
Messrs. Rowney & Co., Oxford Street, London. Four 
in one frame, with a gold mount, make a reasonably 
sized and interesting wall ornament. 

Photographs of the Terra-Cottas of Lucca delta RchHa^ 
and other similar decorative Italiai\ work, are sold by 
G. Cole, Via Tomabuoni, Florence, at two to three 
francs each. 

The Chroma 'lithographs published by the Arundel 
Society^ after mediae^ Italian art, are many of them 
excellent and interesting. It is not necessary to be a 
subscriber in order to obtain them, and an old sub- 
scriber, whether he has ceased to subscribe or not, may 
always obtain them for himself or his friends at sub- 
scriber's prices. Office in St. James's Street, London. 

Turner* s ^^ liber Studiorum*^ prints in sepia (a great 
part of the work by the artist himself). At a Bond 
Street shop ten guineas and upwards is asked, but I 
have bought many at the small, insignificant shops lying 
between the Strand and Oxford Street, at one and 
a half to four guineas. 

Small Eighteenth Century Engravings^ mostly printed 

82 



ART FOR SHALLOW PURSES 

in brown, and generally circular or oval in shape, after 
Angelica Kauffman, Cipriani, and others; imaginative 
and poetical subjects, illustrating Spenser's "Faery 
Queen," &c. Sold by old print collectors in Soho, &c. 
(must be bought with care, there being plenty of rub- 
bishy imitations). Some of the best are printed on 
cream-coloured satin. 

F. Hollyer, Pembroke Square^ Earts Court Road^ 
Kensington^ prints and sells a very fine collection of 
most interesting photographs, after Burne-Jones and 
D. G. Rossetti. These photographs are quite of a 
superior style to the ordinary article. 

Bartolozzfs Engravings, after Holbein^ some of them 
on tinted paper, may often be met with in old book and 
print shops in London, at 5s. to los., and the three or 
four best of them at £2, 2s. or ;^3, 3s. They were 
published by Chamberlain in a.d. 1793, and the whole 
book (which contains at least twenty-five worth framing) 
may occasionally be met with at prices varying from 
25 ^o 35 guineas, according to the condition of the 
plates. They are most excellent and interesting. 

Albert Duret^s Woodcuts, reproduced of late years in 
France, very vigorous and picturesque, at a few francs ; 
and for those who have patience to hunt further, original 
woodcuts and etchings by Durer and his best imitators 
are often to be picked up at small prices, los. and 
upwards, especially if rather foxed, or if they have lost 
their, margins. 

Mezzotint Engravings, published about 1790, many of 
them in a beautiful deep soft brown, after Gainsborough, 
Reynolds, Romney, and Hoppner, may often be found 
at old print shops at ;^5, 5s. and upwards, according to 
condition. They are printed on exceedingly soft paper, 
and so are often out of condition, and proportionately 

83 



BEAUTY AND ART 

cheap. They are easy to mount when wetted thoroughly 
all over, and may then be touched up with a very fine 
sable and Indian ink. Nothing has of late years been 
so much looked up by lovers of art, and fine proof 
copies have frequently been sold at upwards of loo 
guineas each by auction. The most beautiful are gene- 
rally full-length portraits of ladies. 

Copies of the most valuable and interesting works in 
the National Gallery, or of parts of them, may be pur- 
chased during the process of copying, at such prices as 
ten to thirty guineas. There are "hacks," no doubt, 
who produce bad copies all through a lifetime, but there 
are also many excellent copyists, who like the work, 
and are glad of the little pocket-money so earned ; and 
to sensible people, who don't want to brag of the value 
of their possessions, such copies are quite as interesting 
as the originals. 

Of course, it is not pretended for one moment that 
this is a complete list of all the bits of really high art 
that may be obtained at such prices. 



ORNAMENT 

I need not say that much pleasure, much cultivation 
of taste, and great improvement to the aspect of the 
house may be obtained by buying for chimney-piece 
and cabinet ornaments, in place of the trash annually 
poured out by Birmingham and the Potteries, Paris and 
Munich, such things as the following : — 

Old Blue and IVhite Oriental China. — Good vases 
and beakers are costly, but plates are often as good 
in design, and remain moderate in price. 

Rhodian Ware^ often called Persian, generally plates. 

84 



ART FOR SHALLOW PURSES 

Greyish-cream ground, with variously coloured flowers. 
Very conventional. 

Modern Venetian Glass, — The simpler and more 
severely shaped pieces, generally in the form of tall 
wine-glasses and beakers. 

Modem Lustre Ware, — Dishes by Cantagalli, of 
Florence, and by De Morgan of Great Marlborough 
Street, London. 

Old Brass Dishes, — By no means very rare. Are 
still in use in Italy in the fried-fish shops. 

Scraps of Old Embroidery^ Italian or English. These 
may be arranged as panels in an over-mantel, or for 
screens. 

^^ Chippendale^^ Mirrors^ so called, though never 
figured by Chippendale. Small, mahogany - framed, 
usually with a carved and gilt bird at the top, and 
pierced thin woodwork above and below. Also broad, 
black Venetian mirror-frames (cornice a sbalzd)^ with 
little waved patterns on their mouldings. 

Old Flemish Leather^ stamped and lacquered, making 
an excellent frieze or backing to a sideboard. 

Old French or Flemish Tapestry^ of the kind known 
as "Verdure" — trees, shrubs, and landscape only. 
Unimportant pieces, of moderate dimensions, often 
change hands at 40s. per square yard. 

And by the use of Oriental carpets^ rugs, and mattings, 
wherever practicable, in lieu of those of English manu- 
facture. (It is quite possible, however, to buy very bad 
ones — the " axioms " should be kept well in mind.) 



85 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

{Addretsed to the lAverfool Arcfnteetural AttociatuMi) 




&|EFORE dealing with a subject which 
must of necessity consist largely of 
almost querulous fault-finding, I 
wish to say, quite plainly and dis- 
tinctly, how highly I hold in esteem the calling of 
an architect — not merely regarded as an ideal of 
what an architect may and ought to be — but 
practically, as I have found architects I have 
known, and under whom I have worked for years, 
and from a knowledge of what they have done 
and what they are doing. The most beautiful 
and enduring things the world possesses we owe 
to their education and their patience, their inge- 
nuity and love ; and if a man wants to be trans- 
formed and elevated— the beast in him to be 
subdued and the Godlike developed — let him 
trace the history of architecture and visit her 
creations, from the Parthenon and the French 



BEAUTY AND ART 

and English cathedrals to the Houses of Par- 
liamenty and your own St, George's Hall 
(Liverpool). 

If I have any fault to find with architects, it 
is that they do not go far enough ; that they 
should not stop at wall and cornice and wood- 
work, but that they should also design the 
ceiling, the frieze, the dado, the chimney-piece, 
the grate, the electric fittings, and not leave all 
these things to dribble into the hands of a set 
of uneducated shopkeepers, whose only interest 
is jC s. d. 

In an age of low and sordid ambitions, when 
every man is greedy to rob his neighbour if he 
can, it seems a matter of inestimable value to 
the public weal that there should exist a body 
of men who are, for the most part, educated 
gentlemen; who are seldom commercially am- 
bitious ; who can take delight in beauty of form 
and colour for beauty's sake, and not because 
it pays ; who are singularly tenacious of each 
other's rights, rather than of their own ; whose 
value to the community is never adequately 
acknowledged ; who constantly do as good or 
better work than the painters, but who are not 
one-tenth part so much flattered and petted; 
and who habitually work hard for their living, 
and very seldom have the chance of a plum. 

It is to these qualities we must look for our 

90 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

bulwarks against the tide of vulgar, common- 
place, and utilitarian rubbish, which threatens 
at present to absorb every calling. The world 
seems to have entered upon a new phase, dis- 
tinguished principally by a desire to make 
money, irrespective of the way it is made; 
and we are following our neighbours across 
the Atlantic in falling down to worship the 
Golden Dollar. There is no apparent break- 
water to stem the tide but that of architects and 
artists, if they will, who have something to set 
up as a goal better worth winning than com- 
mercial success. 

Decoration. — No one will surely attempt to 
deny that we live in an age conspicuous for 
its commonplace. Whether it be the average 
builder's house, or civil engineer's railway- 
station, or a scientific man's electric fittings, 
we recognise modem work by its complete 
absence of character. Now, commonplace is 
dull and uninteresting. No one would know- 
ingly seek it or desire it, or, unless he were 
desperately dull and commonplace himself, 
would pay good money to get it; and yet 
most people do get it. They rent or buy 
commonplace houses with commonplace decora- 
tion, and complete the thing with common- 
place furniture; and it becomes an inquiry of 
some interest to try and see how this arises, and 

91 



BEAUTY AND ART 

what are the chief inducing causes. A decorator 
becomes so wearied and worried by the moun- 
tains of commonplace stuff around, that the 
subject has become an interesting study, and 
we seem to trace its origin in a sort of mis- 
directed utilitarianism. Now, that brings us 
upon tangible ground. 

As an example: I suppose I am only one 
among many who have been rash enough to 
attempt to improve the mouldings and details of 
a billiard-table and a piano, but always with this 
result, that it has been proved to me by the fore- 
man or masters of such an establishment, that 
in several cases the new details supplied would 
have cost a little more money. This one cut into 
more wood ; another wanted cutting at twice ; 
in a third they had been accustomed to cut two 
out of a square, and the new drawing was not 
so accommodating — and so on through the list. 

Now, this spirit is to be found in every branch 
of trade, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hun- 
dred it is just the little interesting and artistic 
touch that is found to be more costly or less con- 
venient. Something must be pinched to meet 
competition. Wages cannot be altered; mate- 
rial and labour must, therefore, be economised. 
A cabriole leg to a chair requires a carver : a 
turned leg can be done by the thousand in a 
steam lathe. A large design goes over three 

92 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

or four printing-blocks : cut it down in dimen- 
sions and put it in on one. A sheep-skin for 
embossing costs 3s. 6d., but paper as stout can 
be had for 4Jd. A door handle with a ray- 
like set of flutings must be cast and chased : 
leave out the flutings, and you can " spin " it. 
And so in every department of work, except, 
perhaps, those details of a building upon 
which a good architect rests his reputation, we 
drop down to utilitarian commonplace. 

And the motive force which brings this about 
is that terrible commercial desire to do the largest 
business possible, rather than to be content to 
do a smaller business, and to do it as well as it 
possibly can be done. Your spirited and enter- 
prising tradesman, with the mercantile instinct 
very strongly developed, advertises freely and 
lies freely, and assures all who will read or 
listen to him that they can live as well, own 
as pretty houses, and dress as well, as far as 
appearances go, as their richer neighbours. 
His competitors of the same street advertise 
and lie even more freely than he does; and 
down goes the price of every commodity, the 
value going down still more quickly — for, are 
not the savings all made out of material ? And 
as if this was not bad enough, it seems that, to 
spice the dish, it is necessary to olFer the bait 
of continual novelty — novelty in the spring, 

93 



-^ 



BEAUTY AND ART 

further novelty in the autumn ; and to produce 
this, huge establishments are required, divided 
into sections, over each of which presides a 
manager, trained only in the art of dividend- 
making; the whole being quite beyond the 
reach of the taste, or influence, or even of the 
personal scrutiny of the real master — utilitari- 
anism being the only god they all worship. 

You will ask, perhaps, how this is to be 
stopped. That, I fear, would lead us beyond the 
limits of an inquiry like this ; but at least we 
may each do much by fostering the opposite 
spirit, by carefully avoiding tradesmen who are 
prominent advertisers, and by influencing our 
families and friends to do so too. 

In comparing, to our constant chagrin and 
vexation, the beautiful productions of the 
Middle Ages — tapestry, leather, armour, pot- 
tery, figured velvets, embroidery, and the like, 
with the cheap rubbish of to-day, one cannot 
but ask how it was that they, with fewer facili- 
ties than we, produced this wealth and abund- 
ance of beautiful things, while we, with all the 
results of their experience to help us, seem 
comparatively impotent. I confidently ascribe 
it to the loss of tradition — that whereas the 
mediaeval armourer was generally the son and 
grandson of an armourer, and brought up his 
son and his grandson to be armourers too, the 

94 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

painter was the son and possibly the grandson 
of a painter, the tapestry-weaver also being 
descended from a family of tapestry-makers: 
and so on through every trade, the country 
being filled with young men who from boyhood 
understood their business, and had no thought 
but of practising the same. Nowadays, we go 
off into the opposite direction, and our success- 
ful upholsterer is the son of a city clerk, and 
brings up his son to be a country gentleman 
and a breeder of race-horses. 

William Morris used to say that the sixteenth 
century craftsman lived so happily and joy- 
ously, was so well dressed, and housed, and fed 
(his master being jovial and liberal too), that 
out of the sheer delight he found in his life 
and surroundings, he thought beautiful things, 
hammered beautiful iron, embossed beautiful 
leather, wove beautiful tapestry, and sang jovial 
songs. I hope it is all true. 

But I think it has been proved beyond dis- 
pute that the workman was never nearly so well 
oflF in the history of the world as he is to-day. 
An examination of old workmen's quarters in 
France and Italy, the Rue de Jerzuel in Dinan, 
for instance, which has scarcely been touched 
for two or three hundred years, the dark and 
narrow ccUUs of Venice, slum quarters in Paris 
and Rome, seem to show that the mediaeval 

95 



BEAUTY AND ART 

workman was very badly housed in what we 
should call dark and dirty quarters. No doubt 
such details are matters of comparison, and 
probably their quarters were as good as they 
desired, their needs not having been increased 
by the sight of anything better — for their class, 
at least. The workman gained, of course, im- 
mensely by the comparative smallness of the 
towns and thinness of the population as com- 
pared with our own. The power of joining 
in the field sports of the nobles, if only as 
lookers-on, must have been a great relief, and 
even, with some natures, it is conceivable that 
war might have been an agreeable change. 
Hours of work, we can well understand, must 
have been less arbitrary, and more according to 
the workman*s own choice; and the power of 
carrying on his work at his own house must 
have been an enormous gain when we think of 
the crowded factory of the present day; so 
that his life, when compared with that of to- 
day, may have been tolerable. 

In each age, no doubt, the ruling class gets 
what it wants and has the money to pay for. 
In the sixteenth century money was in the 
hands of the few. The mediaeval prince, or 
baron, or squire, the bishop or canon of the 
Church, knew how to rule the roost, and, 
in a rough way, they did it well; and these 

96 



 

J 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

beautiful things we are talking about were 
what they liked and wanted, and had the 
money to pay for ; and it was just that tradi- 
tional craftsmanship we have spoken about 
which rendered it, in difficult and troublesome 
times, still possible for certain trades to live — 
though, judging by history, the workmen could 
not have worked more than half their time — 
war filling up the other half. 

But how different is the social condition now. 
Where there were one or two of the ruling class 
in a town or neighbourhood, there are now a 
thousand burghers, all fairly well-to-do, whose 
wants are of an entirely different kind. They 
desire and enjoy better houses, more warmth 
and protection from cold, gas, improved lamps, 
electric light, better and more varied food, 
books, magazines, newspapers, and postal ser- 
vices — a much better minage^ extending, too, 
all over the house; music, and occasionally 
foreign travel; while the richer ones desire 
and obtain costlier equipage, good art, a great 
deal too much sport, and two or three houses 
each, instead of one, not to mention long so- 
journs in foreign hotels. 

Collectively, this modern society demands, 
and gets, good means of transport by land and 
by sea, rapid transmission of messages or news, 
and comfortable hotels at all centres of interest, 

97 G 



BEAUTY AND ART 

whether in the streets of a metropolis or on a 
Swiss mountain. These are the demands of 
the burgher of the latter half of the present 
century — for a great many of us no longer desire 
to lord it, baronially, with fire and sword, but 
are learning to live and let live; and a vast 
section of society now prefers to live honourably 
by the sweat of the brow, rather than screw 
rack-rents out of pauper peasants. The pluck, 
ingenuity, and industry of the designing and 
working class of our time has produced the 
article demanded, and has been liberally paid 
for it. True, the details of the articles so pro- 
duced are in most cases as hideous as utilitari- 
anism can make them ; but remember that it 
was not beautiful detail that was ordered, but 
material comfort and convenience ; and, beyond 
doubt, if beautiful leather for wall coverings, 
for instance, had been steadily asked for twenty 
years ago, some of us would have produced 
leather equal to the best the Spaniards made, 
and by now better still. But the well-to-do 
burgher replies, " I do not care to pay a guinea 
a skin : I would rather have an imitation at 5 s., 
and spend the remainder in dogs, horses, yachts, 
Scotch shooting, a trip to the Riviera.*' We 
may be sorry for his choice and think it a mis- 
take, but we have to deal with facts, and change 
our ideas with the changing times. 

98 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

Perhaps you will say to me, " Well, but if 
the production of beautiful sixteenth century 
work were to be demanded again, say by an 
aristocracy who had ceased to think killing 
God's creatures the greatest pleasure to be 
enjoyed, you would merely copy old work : 
you would go to South Kensington and trace 
and copy and reproduce." Believe me, this 
has always been so. No architect, no painter, 
no craftsman in this world ever sprung by a 
stride into what was at once novel and good. 
And just as the beautiful Gothic of Beauvais 
and Bourges is merely developed through a thou- 
sand delicate gradations from a Greek temple, 
so whatever work of matis is thoroughly fine 
and noble in the worlds must always have 
been only a trifling advance upon a previous 
success. There is absolutely no exception 
whatever to this rule. The more one looks 
into the history of the past, the more one feels 
that each art or craft must follow its own tra- 
dition. I know we live in an age when this 
is constantly forgotten, and numbers of young 
designers and architects are constantly springing 
up to show how they can make mighty leaps 
and astonish the ages. There were three or 
four specimens in a recent "Arts and Crafts 
Exhibition," where the modern gesso work was 
cracked and going to pieces within a few months 

99 



BEAUTY AND ART 

of its production. The saying clause is that 
these crazes are of short duration ; and we are 
constantly learning th^t tradition is the only 
safe foundation. 



In the first half of the last century the in- 
creasing wealth of the nation, the constant 
visits to France and Belgium of soldiers and 
statesmen, and the ideas so communicated to 
men at home, brought about a great ferment 
amongst the well-to-do classes as regards the 
houses they lived in and their fittings, and made 
us very conscious that our manner of living was 
barbarous in comparison with that of our Con- 
tinental neighbours. 

Where a genuine demand exists, there seem 
always the men produced to supply it, and 
Robert and John Adam, who published their 
magnificent work in 1773, appear to have 
drawn in careful detail, not only the houses 
they built, but all the furniture for them, in- 
cluding even the draping of the curtains. Wit- 
ness the superb collection of their drawings 
now to be seen at the Soane Museum. And 
other architects of that time, if they do not go 
quite so far as the Adams, at all events pub- 
lished excellent books of engravings, often with 

full-sized details, of chimney-pieces and ceilings, 

100 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

which are not only the best for our modern wants 
that have ever been designed, but continue to 
form the best models for our work of to-day. 
George Richardson, who published his work in 
1776, stands, perhaps, in the van (for the Adams' 
work was exceptional, and for the very rich). 

The Chimney-piece. — ^The chimney-piece is 
a great feature in determining the character of a 
room, and though I cannot think of placing these 
men in front of the great Renaissance designers 
of Italy, yet for the average burgher's house, the 
designs of W. Jones, Inigo Jones, N. Wallis, 
and Matthias Darley, besides the two already 
mentioned, form a most valuable heirloom. 

But the whole series of illustrated books, 
commencing with W. Jones in 1739, ^'^^ 
terminating with Sheraton at the end of the 
century, forms a most wonderful chapter in 
the history of English architecture and decora- 
tion. It embraced, besides the architects men- 
tioned, and several not mentioned, Chippendale, 
Shearer, Heppelwhite, and Sheraton, cabinet- 
makers ; Lock, Copeland, and Johnson, wood- 
carvers ; the delightful Pergolesi, Cipriani, 
and Columbani, designers of ornament; and 
many others of more or less merit. And 
though there was a dangerous disposition to be 
wild and flamboyant, and even to try and out- 
Frank the French, yet underneath it all there 

101 



BEAUTY AND ART 

is a solid residuum of good grain well worth the 
necessary sifting. The architects, of course, 
followed Greece and Rome. The cabinet- 
makers and carvers drew their inspiration 
beyond doubt from France (buying the illus- 
trated books of Berain, Le Pautre, and others). 
The ornamenters were Italians pure and simple, 
imported adults. Nevertheless, it was these 
men, apparently, that rescued us from a state 
of rude barbarism in all these arts, and they 
were on the highroad to place us abreast of 
our neighbours, when the French Revolution, 
at one blow, cut us off from most of the sources 
of our inspiration, and we dropped at once to 
commonplace and humdrum. Any one who 
will take the trouble to wade through the 
shelves of illustrated books at South Kensington 
cannot but be struck by the astonishingly rapid 
collapse of all that was valuable or useful in 
those published after Sheraton. Up to his 
time (1791) every book contained something 
of merit, but even his own latest book (1804), 
Taylor ( 1 805), Wood ( 1 806), G. Smith ( 1 808), 
are tissues of impotent vulgarity, and form the 
origin of all that bad work of the early part of 
the century which makes one alternately laugh 
and shudder. 

And just as the Chippendale period, 1740 

to 1795, has left us a fine legacy, in chimney- 

102 



timti^an-mB^mamSSm 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

pieces, ceilings, furniture and decoration, so 
the dull and humdrum period, 1800 to 1850, 
has left us a dreadful residuum of hideous 
ceiling rosettes, huge and imbecile cornices, 
generally with a large cavetto; white marble 
chimney-pieces with an arch and trusses, large 
mirrors, always with a half-oval head, and cut 
glass chandeliers. And these again (it is like 
the sowing of dragon's teeth) have produced 
the immense skirting, vulgar mouldings every- 
where; the terrible gasalier; the builder's 
"sham," carrying bad tiles fixed in a frame; 
cornices, still huger and more full of frivolous 
and foolish enrichments ; the window with only 
two panes of glass, and other enormities. We 
must all do our best utterly to forget and 
ignore the terrible period between 1793 and 
1870 — the seventy-seven years following the 
French Revolution. 

The Ceiling. — We have been for long, and 
still are, though there are signs of improve- 
ment, quite stupid as regards the ceiling. No 
doubt, ever since good Queen Bess's time at 
least, architects have generally contrived to put 
one moulded plaster ceiling, if not more, into 
the houses of the rich — but there things have 
stopped until quite lately; and the average 
citizen's ceilings consist of from thirty to sixty 
square yards of plain, whitewashed plaster. 

103 



BEAUTY AND ART 

We decorate our walls with patterns and pic- 
tures and cabinets and mirrors, and then pre- 
tend that we " rather prefer a plain ceiling." 

The modelled ceiling of the last century, if 
it gained in refinement on the Stuart work, lost 
heavily in want of breadth and mass, and was 
constantly spotty and liny. But the illustrated 
works of Matthias Darley, Robert and John 
Adam, and Richardson, to go no further, afford 
some charming ideas of ceiling arrangements, 
and when executed mainly in colour, they must 
have been most lovely, and are fine examples 
for our use. 

Not enough use is made of flock paper. 
Ten or twelve flocks give a much bolder relief 
than "Anaglypta," and nearly as much relief 
as the well-known " Tynecastle," and cost less. 
But it is to be hoped that as architects come to 
design more and more of the interior fittings 
of their houses, they will give sketches in 
colour for the ceilings, and call on us decora- 
tors to carry them out. For, with our cloudy 
skies, it is colour above all things that we want 
in our houses. There is absolutely no reason 
why our ceilings should not be as well and 
carefully coloured as our walls, if only huge 
cornices and dreadful rosettes could be kept 
out of them. No doubt, the ceiling wants 

more delicate colouring than the wall — z piece 

104 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

of experience that quickly comes to any 
designer ; but to lay down a rule that nothing 
but a white ceiling is admissible is about as 
sensible as to say that nothing but a green wall 
is admissible. Rooms should be coloured in 
accordance with their aspect ; and no relief, 
however interesting, can be so beautiful for a 
room to be used at night, as a painted and 
delicately coloured ceiling. 

There is plenty of paper painted in water- 
colour, by artists of the sixteenth century, in 
good condition now ; and a paper ceiling with 
printed borders and hand-painted foliages and 
plaques can be executed at half the cost of a 
Tynecastle or moulded ceiling, and comes 
within the price that the average house-build- 
ing John Bull can pay. Pergolesi alone, 
brought to this country by the Adams, has left 
us in his book a perfect mine of wealth as to 
the treatment of ceilings. 

The Cornice. — There is no more mischiev- 
ous feature than the huge cornice which the 
builder always puts into his house. He thinks, 
I suppose, to make his room look " handsome." 
Never, under any circumstances, can it be other- 
wise than an eyesore. The cornice should be 
large enough to take the eye off the bare- 
ness of a right angle, and no larger. Almost 
every old house in London (at least of a hun- 

105 



BEAUTY AND ART 

dred years old) shows us specimens of beautiful 
cornices of not more than eight or nine inches 
in girth, even less. The decoration of the 
ceiling and the wall is much facilitated by this, 
and such a cornice, if painted a subdued white, 
retires, as it should, into its proper place, and 
tempts nobody to the dreadful process of pick- 
ing out; a tiny leaf or scroll in the lower 
part, and a bold, square member in the middle, 
finished by a simple moulding above and below, 
being all that is wanted. It is wonderful how 
well one can manage to do without cornices 
altogether in the less important rooms, if some 
modest sum be allowed for paper borders. In- 
deed, if everything is to cost nearly nothing, 
as seems the fashion nowadays, why not give 
up the bedroom cornice at once ; and even in 
reception rooms, where the builder, for some 
cause or other, has omitted the cornice, it will 
be found that a wooden moulding of two or 
three inches in girth looks well. 

The Frieze. — ^The frieze is to the construc- 
tional part of the room what the flower or 
fruit is to the plant, and can scarcely receive 
too much careful attention. 

Being well above the line where pictures 

and ornaments and cabinets come, a dull region 

remains there if you have no frieze ; and the 

absence of one nearly always results in the 

1 06 



_^ijwjw ..iiip ^^»^^^^»F— ^^^^^i^^i^w^^»^a— ■^—'^^■^M^^^i^^ 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

undue enlargement of the cornice, which gets 
filled with "enrichments," and becomes a 
slough of despond. The frieze is too often 
entirely forgotten, or left to the imagination of 
the local decorator. Architects ought always 
to provide one, except in the exceedingly low 
rooms of a cottage; and there are so many 
ways of treating this most ornamental feature. 
Let me enumerate : — 

(a.) There is cast plaster ornament, of which 
(even if you have a mould to make) the cost is 
reasonable. 

(6.) For those who want something original, 
a young artist can paint on gilded canvas, and 
give the room a character which nothing else 
will give so well. 

(c.) Stencilled paper also makes a charming 
frieze, with delicacies of colour and design 
which I think no other plan can equal. 

(cl.) For the least important rooms there 
are printed friezes which, carefully chosen, 
may be adequate and agreeable. 

But an architect who has any originality 
should take this opportunity of giving dis- 
tinguishing character to his room, by a pictur- 
esque and original frieze of his own design; 
and the owner of the house, or his wife, if 
they can paint, should paint their own. 

TAe Body of the Wall. — ^The great advan- 

107 



BEAUTY AND ART 

tagc of large designs is evident, but a very 
great deal too much fuss is made about wall 
papers. People seem to think that if they 
have bought a Morris wall paper, that they 
have gone three-fourths of the way to a beauti- 
fully decorated room ; whereas it is quite pos- 
sible that a plain, or nearly plain wall, with a 
dado and frieze more or less ornamental, might 
have been far better than any sort of pattern. 
Our rooms often get terribly over-patterned — 
patterned wall and ceiling, patterned floor, 
patterned curtains, patterned furniture-covers ; 
where are we to get a little rest for the eye, if 
not occasionally by a plain wall? But sup- 
posing that, for suflSicient reasons, the wall is 
to be patterned, the design should be the 
largest possible. I am not at all forgetting 
the charm and constant advantage of diaper 
patterns, sometimes even on a minute scale; 
but I am now speaking of the large wall spaces 
between the dado and the frieze, which roughly 
may be considered as spaces of ten square 
yards and upwards on the average. Of course, 
the "local" decorator is sure to recommend 
" a neat small pattern," partly because small, 
characterless patterns are cheap, easy, and safe, 
and involve no responsibility, and partly be- 
cause the constant desire for novelty (new 

patterns each spring, and more new patterns 

1 08 



..J 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

each autumn) almost necessitate the adoption 
of small designs on the part of the printer, 
in order to be reasonably economical in the 
expense of block-cutting. Here again utili- 
tarianism steps in. We may not have an old 
pattern, because it is old, and novelty is neces- 
sary. ("Let us be in the fashion or die.") 
And we cannot have large patterns, because 
the blocks would be costly. Out upon such 
twaddle ! Let us have adequate, fine designs, 
even if we have to stick to them for twenty 
years. 

Any one who has given attention to the 
beautiful designs often to be found on the 
dresses and draperies in fine old paintings, 
must have noticed that in nine cases out of 
ten the painter never allows a "repeat? to 
appear. Damask designs behind a Blessed 
Virgin, or on her dress, are always large 
patterns with no repeat shown, the repeat 
being manifestly understood to be the weak 
point of the ornament, and likely to be tiresome 
and limiting. Yet Mr. Voysey has discovered 
in this fin de Steele that this is not so, and 
even draws patterns in express contradiction 
of this theory, of which more anon. 

Any of us having a wall to decorate, say lo 
feet X lo feet, and expense being no great object, 
would at once feel that the ideal way would be 

109 



BEAUTY AND ART 

to commence the pattern with some root or 
basal feature on the skirting, and finish with 
lighter and finial features against the frieze or 
cornice, filling the space right and left with a 
pleasantly varied arrangement of harmonious 
forms. We should never bother ourselves with 
a repeat, except on utilitarian grounds. When 
you come to bring this into practical working, 
the cost of a huge set of blocks becomes at 
once a prohibition, for even a set of blocks 8 
feet X 2 1 inches is somewhat of a difliculty to 
the printer. 

But there is a way — and an old way too— 
of getting over the difficulty — namely, by sten- 
cilling. There is no practical difficulty about 
making stencil plates in varnished cartridge- 
paper the height of the wall you have to 
decorate, and the expense is not unreasonable. 
Moreover, stencilling produces much finer 
colouring than printing, and gives the effisct 
of handwork, as indeed it mainly is, taking at 
once a higher position than the much more 
mechanical block-printing. 

Stencilling is one of the most beautiful of 
decorative arts. The stencil-plate, costing little, 
can be thrown aside, when one room has been 
decorated, without undue expense, thereby 
getting rid of the terrible mechanical appear- 
ance of our rooms, which become exactly like 

no 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

other people's rooms, or remind us of them. 
The accomplished stenciller finds no bounds 
to the gradation of colouring which he can 
produce — gradation, not only between flower 
and flower, thereby entirely hiding the repeat ; 
but, if he pleases, gradation between the lower 
part next the skirting and the higher part next 
the cornice. 

It is a class of work that has been relegated 
to mean little borders and mechanical detail 
in churches, and so used, it generally produces 
a very bad effect. But it is capable of all sorts 
of beautiful variations, and should at once 
regain its proper position in these crafts. On 
the mere question of gradation alone, it is 
worthy of the highest consideration, for, as 
Mr. Ruskin has well said, *' Colour begins 
where gradation begins." 

There is a supposition amongst a large 
number of people that a small room requires 
a small pattern on the wall. This is a dis- 
tinct mistake. There is no sort of relation 
between the size of the room and the size of 
the wall pattern. The smallest of boudoirs will 
bear the largest of designs, if the pattern be 
only not aggressive. The real relation between 
these things is between the size of the room 
and the energy or force of the design ; a little 

room requiring a modest arrangement of chiaro- 

III 



BEAUTY AND ART 

scuro and colour, while a large hall or ball- 
room may be best treated with a pattern full 
of force and light and shade, and telling 
colouring. 

It may be well at this point to consider the 
much belauded Japanese ornament. It is a 
little difficult to discuss it with patience and 
reasonableness: its perfervid admirers are so 
unreasonable in their frantic adulation. Ordi- 
narily, in Europe at all events, we do not say 
of any man that he can draw until he has 
accurately delineated things which of their 
nature demand complete exactness, such as the 
human form, or a fine cathedral interior, with 
arcades and vaultings in many planes. Now a 
Japanese artist never, under any circumstances, 
draws such things as these, and from what one 
sees of his work, one may say with confidence 
that he is unable to do so. If his work, there- 
fore, be art, it is art under exceedingly narrow 
limitations, and cannot be thought of as high 
art at all. When "artists" cannot "draw," 
one wants to know what they are there for. 
We all know that a man may go on copying 
leaves and flowers for fifty years, and yet be 
unable to " draw " the hand that drew them ; 
and we call him a designer or a decorator, not 
an artist. You may search in vain from the 
time that Sir Rutherford Alcock first brought 

112 



^ 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

Japanese work to this country, and never find 
a Japanese design which could be called well- 
balanced, and which readily arrived at a good 
" repeat," as an Italian's almost always does. 

Some one has said that one quality of art is 
that it should elicit surprise in the beholder ; 
and we must certjunly grant the existence of 
this very minor quality in much of their work. 
But viewed in due relation to Greek art, or 
sixteenth century Renaissance art, or the work 
of Botticelli, Durer, Van Eyck, Rembrandt, 
Millais, and Burne-Jones, Japanese work can 
have no definite position whatever, and must 
be marked " nowhere " ; and no one who has 
any wide and well-considered views on art and 
artists could ever make the mistake of extolling 
it as art. The strange furore which has raged 
around it these last twelve years has arisen from 
a certain movement or development among 
ourselves^ and not from any merit existing in 
the Japanese work. 

As facilities for intercourse and reading have 
multiplied, and handbooks on decoration and 
furnishing have been printed by the score, a 
great awakening has ensued, principally among 
women, with regard to our home surroundings, 
and an excitement and thirst for novelty, if 
it can be had cheapo has raged like a pestilence, 
Japanese fans, coloured prints, umbrellas, toys. 

113 H 



BEAUTY AND ART 

china, knick-knacks, &c. ("all this lot for 9d."), 
here come in and appeal to a number of people, 
who suddenly discover that they are born deco- 
rators, and go utterly crazy about it, and insist 
that it is a living art — "/^ only living art," 
&c. — and the press, only too glad of something 
fresh at any cost, echoes the cry ; till a well- 
known Regent Street establishment, some half- 
dozen years ago, had already furnished some two 
hundred and fifty " Japanese rooms " in London 
alone. 

A protest, too, should be made against Eng- 
lishmen's rooms being " fitted up " as Turkish 
divans, which are just as false and foolish under 
the altered circumstances as the two hundred 
and fifty Japanese rooms. Why cannot we 
enjoy a queer, strange sixpenny fan, or a blue 
china jar from the East, and possess it in peace 
and in due relation to other pretty and beau- 
tiful things, without wanting to see the room 
made to match, which it can never possibly do ? 
It is right enough that the South Kensington 
Museum should show us a Turkish divan as 
a historic curiosity, with possible traces of old 
Persian art in it ; but to carry the fashion into 
our houses is preposterous and idiotic. 

Among our modern " cranks," we have a 

number of designers who think it is necessary to 

be strange in order to be successful. Consciously 

114 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

or unconsciously, these men say to each other, 
" Go to, let us be queer," whether because their 
idiosyncrasies lead them that way, or because 
they think that commercial success is best 
attained by cultivating notoriety. 

It is amazing to see designs drawn, apparently 
in sober earnest, of which the main intention is 
the insistence laid on mere lateral repeat, which 
of all things one would have expected a designer 
to conceal. Another gives a terrible travesty 
of humanity — ^women that make you shudder, 
men that give you a nightmare. A third draws 
landscapes of which you do not know the 
meaning until you are told. It is not possible 
that many of these designs can be drawn with 
any other idea than that of astonishing the 
spectator ; though what comfort or advantage 
there can be in that process it is difficult to 
understand. 

If it were possible to say or do anything 
which would conclusively prove that the only 
safe foundation of design is tradition^ these 
abortions would seem to hit the mark, and 
be a warning to younger men to avoid such 
quicksands. 

We naturally and properly place the Italians 
far before all other nations as designers of 
ornament. Lovely work comes to us from old 
Spain and the Low Countries ; and Germany 



BEAUTY AND ART 

and France have also contributed to our store ; 
but it will be found upon examination that all 
the best of these productions have an Italian 
origin. In the eariy centuries the Italians were 
wonderfully in touch with Greece, bringing 
over Greeks to work for them ; and with such 
a beginning, who can wonder that, surrounded 
on all sides by men who could "draw," the 
Italian craftsman should have risen as he did by 
the fifteenth century to the top of the ladder, 
freely distancing all competitors, and leaving 
us a treasure-house of design which may well 
be called inexhaustible ? One hears much from 
literary art-seekers of the wonders of Persian 
art, and no doubt the art of the East, such 
as it is, or was, has a Persian origin ; but no 
Persian designer can for one moment stand 
beside men of the calibre of Botticelli and 
Michael Angelo. 

The Dado. — ^The Dado has clearly its use. 
It represents, as Mr. Ruskin has pointed out, 
the plinth or base of the wall ; it keeps furni- 
ture from damaging the decorations, and it 
enables one to have a plain and delicate tone 
above, which may stop before you descend to 
those parts where traffic would soon spoil it. 

An imitation panelling, formed by moulded 
laths, glued and bradded on, has manifest ad- 
vantages; the whole surface being painted a 

ii6 






DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

uniform tone, along with the woodwork of 
the room. 

The more picturesque classes of India mat- 
ting make an excellent dado covering for 
passages and other places where the traffic of 
the house deals hardly with the lower part of 
the wall, or where people want to lean against 
the wall, as in a billiard-room. 

Besides this, flock paper, going even to the 
extent of ten flocks in thickness, forms a sur- 
face when sized and varnished, or sized and 
painted, almost as hard and enduring as wood. 
And possibly the poker work, much in vc^ue 
among young ladies, might be utilised here in 
diaper patterns. And worsted velvet, hung 
loose in little folds, gives a remarkable sense 
of finish and cosiness. 

TAe Floor. — ^With the old-fashioned nine-inch 
simple skirting, which is far the best, the very 
plainest of patterns should be chosen for the 
floor, if parquetry is to be used. Good as is the 
plain herring-bone all in one wood, three-inch 
boards, like the deck of a ship, are better still. 

As to deal floors, the stain and varnish plan 

is thoroughly unsatisfactory, the thresholds 

becoming quite shabby in six months. Deal 

floors should be entirely covered up, either 

with India matting or felt (the worst of felt 

being that it often wears badly and fades 

117 



BEAUTY AND ART 

quickly). One cannot use that useful but 
ugly linoleum in the bulk of rooms, though it 
may serve occasionally for the surrounding of 
a dining-room. Perhaps, on the whole, a nearly 
plain Brussels carpet is the best, with an Ax- 
minster or Oriental carpet in the centre. 

The inconvenience of the old Oriental carpet 
for our modern life is that it is always of the 
wrong shape — ^never square, or nearly square, — 
always long and narrow, while the modern 
Oriental carpet is generally hideous, and fre- 
quently not good in material. The patent Ax- 
minster carpet comes, however, to the rescue, for 
it forms an admirable medium for obtaining an 
exact copy of the old Persian, with all its queer 
irregularities and freaks of colouring, and is, 
moreover, a most excellent and useful fabric. 

Fatfihng. — The average painter's work, 
even when smooth and mechanically good 
(country work is generally the reverse), is un- 
satisfactory in the extreme. Except white, and 
the very darkest shades of all, paint is open to 
the accusation of being fat, clayey, and chalky, 
and, under the condition known to painters 
as "flat," friable, and useless. And there is 
no doubt that the old grained oak, of which 
we are all sick, on account of its wriggles and 
affectations and knots, was better, and far more 
enduring work. The curious thing is that, 

ii8 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

when we began to see the folly of the aflfected 
imitation of the rays and knots of wood, no 
one seems to have thought of telling the grainer 
to use his comb alone, and to use it straight, 
retaining the useful work and getting rid of 
the folly. At worst it was transparent work, 
and the fat and clayey aspect was not there. 
Practically there is not the shadow of a reason 
why we should not have all colours, even 
ivory white, painted transparent, and with very 
great aesthetic advantage all round ; the colours 
are much more beautiful, less positive, less 
mechanical. There is no difficulty but the 
temporary one of the lack of painters who 
will consent to do it, for no doubt it involves 
a little more care, and in the quirks and angles 
of mouldings much more care. 

Flatting should be positively forbidden. A 
housemaid can wash it off, as if it were water 
colour. 

Staining. — The staining of wood must not 
be forgotten. All the light-coloured woods, 
even oak, if they are good in quality, can be 
stained quite advantageously; but so much 
depends on the grain, its regularity and even- 
ness of absorption (varying from one log to 
another), that it is necessary to watch carefully 
how the wood behaves under the application of 
the stain, before you can instruct the workmen 

119 



BEAUTY AND ART 

what to do. The best colouring matters to use 
are the most transparent, such as Prussian blue, 
deep yellow madder, burnt sienna, Vandyke 
brown, ground in oil or spirit as the workman 
may prefer; but it is a process in which the 
amateur is more likely to succeed than the 
professional painter. 

Effect of Colour. — ^As regards the general 
effect of the colouring of a house, the greatest 
difficulty is in the use of blue. No room, no 
matter what aspect it has, should ever have the 
whole of its walls painted or papered blue; 
and yet many blues are so attractive, and make 
so good a background for pictures, that there 
will be always people who prefer it. A safe 
way is to take care that the cornice and ceiling 
are white, and the frieze mainly white, that the 
dado and woodwork are quite white, and then 
the remainder of the wall may be safely blue. 

Green, having many more elements of variety 
in it, and admitting of a copious admixture of 
yellow, is safer; but immoderately used, it is 
very apt to make a house triste; and that, above 
all things, in this climate, is to be dreaded. 

Reds are good, exactly in proportion as they 

contain an ample supply of yellow, getting 

thereby a quality which readily illumines under 

artificial light. The old crimson wall-paper of 

fifty years ago lighted up no better than a green 

1 20 



 I ^ III  WH Ji — »^iiW^— i^iUP^WP— WPWI^^— WP—W^WWt^^W^^i—— ^— P^^W^IPWHIP 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

or blue. Burnt sienna, stippled or glazed trans- 
parent on white, is the most beautiful red in 
the world. 

Yellow, however, is the useful colour for 
the decorator. It represents sunshine to the 
mind ; and we are creatures of emotion. It is 
a colour at once beautiful, safe, and satisfactory ; 
capable of more gradation and variety than any 
other, and nearly impossible to go wrong in, 
if once you get your workman off the use of 
chromes, or allow them only in infinitesimal 
doses. There is one yellow — raw sienna — 
which of itself is capable of more beautiful 
gradations than any other pigment, if painters 
and printers would only use it alone. The 
ordinary manner of mixing colours in a body 
of white lead is the worst that can be ima- 
gined, and in easel work is well known to be 
productive of all mischief. The white should 
be laid on first, so as to get a permanent body 
of lead, and the colours — or stainings, as they 
are well called — should be glazed or stippled 
upon it, one at a time, afterwards. 

But many good pigments are constantly 
ruined by being carelessly and cheaply pre- 
pared, and good work should always be done 
with tube colour. 

A difficult question, and one often asked, is 
this : — ^Why such and such a colour (mauve, for 

121 



BEAUTY AND ART 

instance) is a bad or useless colour for decora- 
tion. And here is a suggestion for consideration, 
viz., that colours are good, safe, and available in 
proportion as they bear the admixture of yellow : 
just as sunshine illumines, and thereby yellows 
the fields and woods. Now, mauve and the 
purples disappear and become grey when yellow 
is added, and emerald-green and Prussian-blue 
alter their character entirely, and become 
reasonable colours. It will be found that this 
is a good, safe, all-round test. 

Blinds. — Surely never was anything uglier 
brought into our houses than the ordinary 
roller-blinds. Whether they are up or down, 
they are entirely hideous, even with cheap lace 
at the lower edge. They are particularly apt 
to go wrong, either in the way they roll up, 
or in their cords or other tackle. The last lap 
dirties far sooner than the rest, and, as they 
come down from above, they inevitably exclude 
the best light that comes into the room, when 
they are pulled down. No doubt they have 
been adhered to as being rather less cumber- 
some, and because their cords hurt the fingers 
less, than the terrible Venetian-blind ; but in a 
well-furnished house they are to-day inexcusable. 

I hope to live long enough to see roller- 
blinds entirely done away with, or relegated 
only to the kitchen and office. A little curtain, 

122 



iw I  iiuwLii jHi ^m^^Ka^'mm^^^am'mmmm^s=smi^^^ts9^sfssssm^aaBf^isgneiesaE^immmmmmms/t''tBemmfmmmmmmi 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

pulling right and left on a small rod close to 
the glass, answers the purpose better, and is 
agreeable and picturesque where the roller is 
hideous. The best material for sitting-rooms 
is the natural silk of the East — tussore or 
shantung; and for bedrooms, the Yorkshire 
materials known as taffeta or glac6. 

Curtains. — It has somehow come to be an 
article of faith with the ordinary upholsterer that 
curtains, under whatever circumstances, should 
be made of figured materials. There are many 
reasons, however, in favour of plain materials. 
There are good reasons for decorating the 
ceiling and the frieze with designs, and beyond 
doubt a pattern on a wall is constantly advan- 
tageous, and helps, for example, to furnish the 
room of the young couple who start in life 
without pictures. To have a plain carpet, the 
housewife says, is most trying: every footfall 
shows. We are, therefore, fast arriving at 
a fashion of " patterning '' everything — a most 
undesirable condition of things. Now, a plain 
curtain, falling into good folds, offers itself as 
an agreeable rest to the eye. Moreover, the 
best materials, and those which fall into the 
best folds, are the plain ones. Their severity 
may be mitigated by borders, and by varied trim- 
ming, and pleasant gradation of colouring can 

be so introduced much more easily when you 

123 



BEAUTY AND ART 

are not hampered by a figured material. Cloth 
is, perhaps, the best material possible, but there 
are many which afford abundant variety. 

Wall Ornaments. — I have lately endea- 
voured, on the wall of the Walker Art Gallery 
(in Liverpool), to show how many things may 
be used decoratively upon a wall besides pictures. 
I trust it may not be too severe to say that the 
bulk of householders know little about good 
art, and could not pay for it if they did ; and 
we are purposely talking about the average 
Briton. It would, therefore, be greatly to 
his advantage if he could be induced not to 
buy second-rate pictures, but to wait until his 
purse and knowledge justify his buying good 
ones, and meanwhile to ornament his walls 
with such things as small Chippendale mirrors, 
hammered brass sconces, plaster casts after the 
antique and Donatello, blue china on shelves 
or brackets, little eighteenth-century engravings 
by Bartolozzi, feather fans, little objects of 
natural history, such as a fine Peruvian butter- 
fly, &c. &c., all of which add interest and 
gaiety to a room in a greater degree than any 
pictures, and are a thousand times better than 
second-rate or bad ones. Nothing can com- 
pensate for having indiflFerent art presented 
to us day by day, and it is certain that the 
very feeble admiration generally exhibited for 

124 



^ flffgli 



DECORATION OF THE HOUSE 

engravings after Gainsborough, Reynolds, and 
Turner, &c., is largely due to the demoralising 
influence of the prosaic, humdrum landscapes 
from Academies and Water-Colour Societies 
— Royal and otherwise — and the excessive 
prominence given in our sitting-rooms to 
photographs of modern life and photographic 
portraits of our friends. Compared with such 
pictures, the lid of an old brass warming-pan 
is a fine ornament, and a " long-lady " blue jar 
becomes absolutely classic. 

Furniture. — It is pleasing to turn to the 
illustrated books of furniture of the last cen- 
tury, commencing with Copeland in 1 746 ; 
Chippendale, 1754; Ince and Mayhew, about 
1760; Matthias Darley, 1763; Heppelwhite, 
1789 ; Sheraton, 1791, and see how excellent a 
school they initiated. Up to that time, furni- 
ture was architectonic and clumsy, the chair, 
table, and bureau of the Stuart period being 
as ponderous, immovable, and unhandy as it is 
possible to imagine ; picturesque, occasionally, 
as a " property " for an artist, but as furniture 
to live amongst and to use, quite outrageous* 
No doubt the men I have mentioned copied 
their designs from the French, for Chippendale 
has been tracked, and we know the source of 
almost all his designs; but in practice, how- 
ever absurd some of their illustrations, a char- 

125 



BEAUTY AND ART 

acteristic English sobriety comes in and modifies 
the excess of the volatile Frenchman with 
admirable results. How far we might have 
developed, no one can say ; but towards the end 
of the century the French Revolution stopped 
the supply of illustrated books from France, 
and after that — the deluge. 

We feel the weakness of these cabinetmakers 
and carvers, as we read the prefaces of their 
books, and the titles of some of their plates. 
For vulgar and pretentious bombast, it is diffi- 
cult to find their parallel; and much as we 
extol and copy Chippendale, there can be no 
doubt that he was as ignorant and pretentious 
a fellow as ever hawked his wares, and Sheraton 
was very nearly as bad. They could get along 
while they had good copies ; but, like all mere 
copyists, when left to themselves, they were 
impotent, and produced the characterless rub- 
bish of our grandfathers' time, from which we 
have only lately escaped; indeed, we are not 
fully free of it yet. Their furniture, however, 
under French influence, has come to be highly 
valued, and is being largely restored and copied, 
greatly to the general advantage ; for the best of 
the work of that period — say in France, 1650 
to the Revolution, and in England, 173a to 
the Revolution — is beyond dispute the finest 

furniture the world has ever produced. 

126 



FABRICS 



FABRICS 

3ME years ago, I read a paper to 
the Architectural Institute upon 
" Hangings," which contained a 
most elementary description of a 
variety of useful fabrics, and the yarns from 
which they were made ; and it was amusing to 
read in one of the daily papers that '* it would 
be well if Peter Robinson's young men could 
read Mr. Heaton's address." No doubt the re- 
mark was intended to be complimentary to me, 
but it mainly showed that others had noticed 
what I had long been aware of: that the shop- 
keeper's assistant is profoundly ignorant of 
the nature and constituents of ordinary fabrics. 
If you go into a Yorkshire mill, and produce 
specimens of fabrics which are interesting or 
uncommon, there are two or three simple tests 
at once resorted to, in order to explain their 
nature. The first is commonly the tongue : 
129 I 



BEAUTY AND ART 

wool and cotton reveal their nature much more 
plainly when wet than when dry. The next is 
fire : upon application of a lighted match you 
at once distinguish between animal substances 
and v^etable ; the former burn to a cinder, 
the latter to an ash, like paper. The fingers, 
also, reveal much when a person is experienced 
in fabrics. The nose tells a little more : linen, 
for instance, rarely loses its distinctive smell, 
even after many years. In a London shop, none 
of these tests are resorted to ; and your ordinary 
shopkeeper's assistant is generally entirely in the 
dark as to the nature of the fabrics he is selling. 
And, as it is the study of a great many manu- 
facturers to hide the cheap materials of a fabric 
behind the costlier ones, to pretend, in fact, that 
the cheap materials do not exist, it is little 
wonder that the amateur is completely deceived. 

It will therefore be well to ascertain care- 
fully the nature of the most useful fibres, and 
by that means to arrive at the characteristics of 
the fabrics produced from them. 

There is no use talking of " good fabrics " 
and " bad fabrics " ; the only profitable question 
is their suitability to the uses we make of them. 
Perhaps there is no more rubbishy-looking 
fabric produced than what is called " scrim " ; 
but the man who has to line a rough wall 
knows perfectly well that scrim is a really good 

130 



FABRICS 

article when so used. In the same way, the 
poor miserable fabric called " butter-cloth " is 
well suited for the wrapping up of butter, and 
is as good for the purpose as paper is bad. The 
mischief steps in when people attempt to make 
curtains of scrim, or dresses of butter-cloth. A 
few years ago, some of the ladies who com- 
menced the School of Needlework in Kensing- 
ton, set the fashion of using Bolton sheeting 
for dresses — and even for embroidered dresses. 
No doubt there is a proper use for Bolton sheet- 
ing, though it may not yet have been found 
out — unless it be to make sheets for paupers ; 
but a viler misuse of a fabric than to make it 
carry embroidery for dresses was surely never 
conceived. 

As it is impossible to go through all known 
fabrics, and to inquire into all their uses, we 
can only attempt to examine the more common 
and the more useful, especially in regard to the 
substance from which they are made. 

The exasperating fashion which has set in of 
late years, to have everything at an almost 
impossible price, has further muddled us in 
a question of which most of us were sufficiently 
ignorant ; for now it has become necessary 
for the manufacturer who has looms to keep 
going, to make linen appear like silk, cotton 
like wool, jute like linen ; to hide threads 

131 



BEAUTY AND ART 

which form the substance of the fabric, behind 
others and costlier ones which form its surface 
— and so, if possible, to deceive even the very 
elect. 

Cotton. — G)tton is no doubt the fibre which 
mankind first made use of for woven fabrics. 
The history of the early stages is buried in 
obscurity, and certainly it is quite antecedent 
to any known literature. Specimens are to be 
seen of cotton fabric produced at least four 
thousand years before the Christian era— such 
as pieces of mummy cloth. Indeed, though a 
great many ancient manufactures are made of 
linen, considering that parts of India and Egypt 
were settled, and, so to speak, civilised countries 
long before these Western lands, there can be no 
doubt that cotton fabrics are the earliest pro- 
ductions. But whichever it be, cotton or linen, 
is little to our present purpose. Both of them 
are very long in the fibre compared with wool, 
and entirely without spring and elasticity. Crush 
or pinch either of them, and it assumes and 
retains the bent and crushed form so obtained, 
in contrast to the behaviour of an animal 
fibre, which springs back into its original form. 
Now this is an exceedingly important element 
in these vegetable fibres. If the use to which 
you apply them demands that they should hang 

in good folds, and have natural spring in them 

132 



FABRICS 

to retain these folds when crushed or crumpled, 
clearly they are inadequate. They are, for the 
most part, cheap fibres, and their length of 
*' staple'* (as it is termed, alluding to the 
natural length of the growth) adds greatly to 
the strength of the yarn produced from them ; 
and in this respect they have always an advan- 
tage over short-staple fibres. 

The fibre of cotton, in its manner of growth, 
is quite straight, has none of the wriggle or 
wave of wool, and is kept straight in spinning. 
Its chief utility for better and more valuable 
fabrics is that of forming a cheap and useful 
warp (the lengthway threads of a fabric) ; and as 
it makes an exceedingly strong thread, owing 
to its evenness and length of staple, it must 
always form a most useful and desirable fibre 
for that purpose. Unfortunately its cheapness 
tempts the competing manufacturer to use it 
for weft also (the cross-way threads), and so 
used, its inferiority to animal fibres becomes 
apparent, for it is entirely free from lustre, and 
absolutely flaccid and without spring. Conse- 
quently, however useful it may be in its place, 
it is certain greatly to depreciate those fabrics 
where lustre and spring are essential. 

You will see from these remarks that cotton, 
apart from the question of warmth, must always 
be amongst the inferior and less valuable of 

133 



BEAUTY AND ART 

fibres; and when one considers how largely 
the question of warmth for dress and hangings, 
in the northern countries, affects our view of 
the value of a woven fabric, its undesirability 
compared with the majority of our better mate- 
rials will be seen at once; and when compe- 
tition assists in making it used when it ought 
not to be used, its cheapness is a snare of the 
greatest magnitude. 

The question of utility must not be for- 
gotten. Short-sighted people will go about 
saying (when warned that a fabric will not 
wear), " Oh, it will last long enough for me." 
But there inevitably comes a day of retribu- 
tion ; and it is not to the credit of any of us, 
still less to the credit of decent housewifery, 
that we should encourage the use of a fabric 
which will not wear a reasonable time. There 
is sure to be a day of recrimination and repent- 
ance, when one has allowed a bad article to be 
used. People are well aware of this when they 
come to the constructional questions of a build- 
ing. Architects do not build with a brick or 
a slate which is only to last two or three years 
—or even with a plaster which will crumble 
within the same time : the weakness is too evi- 
dent, and the consequent regret and ill-repute 
too immediate. But people will constantly use 
woven fabrics which their own sense tells them, 

134 



''■~-*^ 



FABRICS 

let alone the warning of a conscientious sales- 
man, will be shabby in a twelvemonth. 

And any dyer, and any shopkeeper even, 
knows quite well that a fibre of cotton will not 
take dye at all well. There are one or two 
exceptions to this rule, as in the case of Turkey 
red and indigo — and possibly the dyes obtain- 
able from "cachou." But for all that, the 
rule holds good that cotton receives dye badly ; 
therefore salesmen should advise people that a 
fabric which has its main surface of cotton 
should be used only sparingly when dyed. In 
printed work this remark does not apply equally, 
because the mordants used in printing are so 
much more reliable and serviceable than any 
dyeing. Its true serviceableness is in its natural 
white, or creamy white state. 

Even two or three years ago, French com- 
mercial travellers, who came over selling fabrics 
in this country, used to say as a recommenda- 
tion "It is all wool," or, "All wool and silk." 
Lately this remark has been entirely dropped, 
because the fabrics they now bring are half, 
or nine-tenths, or entirely, cotton. Ask them 
about the permanence of these, and they have 
not a word to say. They shrug their shoulders 
and say, "Monsieur, it is what is wanted." 
And these remarks apply to all the vegetable 
fibres. 

135 



BEAUTY AND ART 

Linen. — Linen is a fibre of a still longer 
staple than cotton ; but it is relatively clumsy, 
and never loses, however much it is handled, a 
certain stiffness. Now, this quality makes it 
valuable for sheets and towels, and the napery 
of the table; but in price it cannot compete 
with cotton, and its uses are much more limited. 
It is exceedingly strong and enduring, and it is 
only when manufacturers use it to supersede 
wool, wishing the unwary to mistake its stiff- 
ness for the spring and firmness of wool, that 
its undesirability is discovered. If people, in 
buying fabrics in shops, would take the simple 
precaution to light a lucifer-match and test the 
nature of the fibre (animal or vegetable) where 
there is any doubt, they would hold manufac- 
turers in check about this false use of linen. 

Perhaps, in linen, the undesirability of using 
things out of their proper sphere is most ap- 
parent. For warm or temperate climates its 
smooth and almost lustre-like surface, forming 
the very best of conductors, makes it feel, as 
we see in sheets and table-linen, agreeably cool 
to the touch. And here is its greatest value ; 
but its stiffness and comparative coarseness will 
always render it one of the least used of our 
fibres. 

Silk. — Silk must have been used in very 
early times ; and, being an article of Oriental 

136 



^■■■k^ •• ^'1 m  <» 



FABRICS 

production, it may have been used as early as 
cotton. As an animal production, it at once 
attains a value, which is increased by a lustre 
such as never belongs to vegetable fibres. 
But its principal characteristic is the smallness 
of the fibre, which can be best understood by 
stating that about seventy-five miles of it 
only weighs one ounce. 

*^7Vi^/" Silk. — As a first process in the 
manipulation, the cocoon is thrown into hot 
water, and is then fingered and rolled round, 
and otherwise slightly rubbed, until the outside 
end frees itself from the rest ; and the manipu- 
lators then pass it over a wheel or spindle, and 
in this way the original filament of the silk- 
worm is obtained free. But, owing to its 
exceeding smallness, four of these threads are 
usually wound together ; and the thread gene- 
rally used by the embroiderer is formed of at 
least twenty of the silk-worm's threads. This 
gives some idea of its exceeding smallness. 
It is flaccid, and, for the most part, springless, 
except when used in considerable bulk ; but, as 
we all know, it has a beautiful lustre, and may 
be called the prince of fibres, from an orna- 
mental point of view. 

^^ Spun^^ Silk. — A broad distinction must 
be drawn between silk, called in trade " net " 
silk (the thread of the silk-worm), and "spun" 

137 



BEAUTY AND ART 

silk, which is composed of the spoilt cocoons, 
either where the worm has died inside, or has 
eaten its way out, in which cases the cocoon 
could not be wound off. It is entirely a 
modem idea to utilise these dead or spoilt 
cocoons; and the result must never be con- 
founded with the silk-worm*s filament. The 
manufacturing process is as follows : — ^The whole 
of these inferior or spoilt cocoons are softened 
by boiling, and then pulled out anyhow into a 
factitious thread, including even the very body of 
the worm itself; so that if you come across a 
silk fabric which seems unusually heavy at a 
moderate price, you may know at once that it 
is this inferior silk. Naturally, it is always 
irregular and full of lumps and rubbish, the 
silk fibres not lying all one way, as they ought 
to do, but in a tangle and mess. Its price may 
be considered, for our present purpose, as not 
more than one-fourth of "net" silk. No doubt 
it has its uses, but they are comparatively few 
compared with those of the real article; and 
it should always be borne in mind that from 
the nature of the yarns so made, dirt is rapidly 
accumulated. Witness the modern question- 
able use of it in the form of plush to illustrate 
this. It is always a source of regret to find 
how far embroiderers consent to use it, in the 

form of filoselle. Hence comes a great deal 

138 



FABRICS 

* 

of the thoroughly inferior embroidery of the 
present day, inferior as compared with old 
Italian or Spanish work, which was always 
made from the silk-worm*s filament. 

The manufacture of this filament is expressed 
in the trade by the word "throwing"; the 
factitious thread I have been discussing is 
known as "spun"; and the throwster and 
spinner are, in manufacturing districts, en- 
gaged in entirely diflFerent trades. 

"Thrown" silk is occasionally required as fine 
as four of the silk-worm's filaments. " Spun " 
silk is more the thickness of eighty to a 
hundred. Think of the superiority of an 
old Lyons velvet to modern plush, and you 
have the diflFerence between the two well 
accentuated. 

Wool. — It is difllicult for the inhabitants of 
a cold or temperate climate to assume on these 
questions the feelings of an Oriental, but as 
Europeans, we think naturally of wool as of 
far the most valuable fibre we have. It came 
into use later than cotton, but there is no profit 
in endeavouring to ascertain how much later. 

There is a broad distinction to be made 
between wools, or, to use the trade phrase, 
between " worsted " and woollen." It is a 
distinction that has arisen from our manner of 
manipulating it, and from the length of the 

139 



BEAUTY AND ART 

growth, but it is still a very broad, useful 
distinction ; and it is necessary to understand it, 
because there is the utmost confusion here in 
the south of England with regard to it. In 
the manufacturing parts of Yorkshire, the seat 
of the trade in both, every apprentice boy knows 
the meaning of that distinction. 

Fine wool, grown in the hotter climates of 
the world, has a natural wriggle or wave in it ; 
while hair^ like our own, is, for the most part, 
straight, so that the nigger song which speaks 
of " the wool on the top of his head " has more 
truth than might appear at first. 

All the wools of the colder climates are 
straight, and of the nature of our own hair. 
Goat's hair, the wools of Iceland and Russian 
sheep, the north of England wool, and many 
other sorts, are all straight, or if they have a 
wave, have very little — certainly nothing which 
can be called a wriggle. Many of these fibres 
are at least six inches in length, some longer ; 
while the wool of the more southern countries, 
Southdowns of England, Saxony, and especially 
Australia, are full of wriggle, and they are 
seldom more than one-third of the length of 
the hairy wools which we have been speak- 
ing of, and are often only one inch in 
length. 

Now, when these northern wools come to be 

140 



FABRICS 

manipulated, they are kept straight during all 
the processes of spinning, and, somehow or 
other, have come to be called " worsted." It 
is said that this word is derived from the name 
of a little town in Norfolk, to which Flemish 
spinners and weavers emigrated, and used these 
very wools ; but the accuracy of this explana- 
tion may be doubted. 

The short and fine wools have too much 
wriggle in them, and -are too short in staple to 
be so treated, and they are spun without any 
attention to the position of the fibres, which 
curl round each other, and " felt " together in 
the manipulation, and are popularly called 
"woollen." The difference between these 
two processes will be found, on consideration, 
to be immense. The " woollen " is used for 
most of our clothing, and blankets, and things 
we require for warmth. The " worsted " is a 
much better conductor, and so is not suitable 
for this purpose. 

As regards value, however, the worsted is 
considerably in advance of the other. Goat's 
hair fetches ordinarily two shillings per pound 
— partly, no doubt, from its beautiful gloss and 
spring — while wool has been sent into Liver- 
pool for sale, of which the staple was so ex- 
ceedingly short, although beautifully fine, that 

having been knocked down at auction at two- 

141 



1 

J 



BEAUTY AND ART 

pence per pound, the buyer found it would not 
pay to expend the railway fare for removing it, 
and it was left in the docks for years. That, 
no doubt, is an extreme case ; but it will serve 
to show how these fibres sell according to the 
length of staple. Not that we wish to depre- 
ciate the value of woollen yarns for a moment ; 
all men's clothing, and cloth generally, and 
flannel, and blankets, and things necessary to 
our comfort, are woollen. 

Alpaca. — On the other hand, the fibre called 
Alpaca or Llama forms a fabric which is gene- 
rally pronounced the most beautiful. The alpaca 
is the South American form of the camel, — 
which shows how animals, separated by one of 
our primeval changes of the earth, may develop 
in two diflPerent directions, the hair of the 
Oriental camel being vastly inferior. 

Mohair. — Next to this in beauty and utility 
comes the hair of the Syrian goat, which Mr. 
Holman Hunt has delineated in "The Scape- 
goat.** We usually speak of it under the name 
of " mohair *' ; but it is quite distinct from 
alpaca, though often confused by name in the 
shops. These hairs (they are called " hair " in 
the market) and the long wool of the north of 
England, Scotland, and to some extent Iceland 
and Russia, possess the valuable quality called 

" lustre " or gloss, a character much valued ; 

142 



FABRICS 

but wKich, of course, is absent in the short 
wools of which clothing is made. 

Adulteration, — Now it will be evident here 
that these fibres which, on the average, may be 
priced, when worked up into yarn, at at least two 
shillings per pound, are readily adulterated with 
cotton, which is about sixpence per pound, to 
the great deterioration of a large number of 
fabrics, and to the deception of the public 
generally. For wool contains springiness, and 
gloss, and warmth-bearing qualities, while 
cotton is entirely without these ; and we ought 
all to learn to detect the presence of cotton in 
these fabrics, since the temptation to use it as an 
adulteration is evident. To such an extent is this 
done, even with silk, that cotton is used, mingled 
with silk, in order to lower the price; and 
many a lady who thinks she buys a silk dress, 
gets one that is one-third cotton. The burning 
test at once reveals this. In buying a silk dress, 
light a lucifer match and see how it burns — 
whether like paper or like wool. It is worthy 
of observation here, that silk, owing to its great 
value, has been adulterated in another way, 
namely, by the addition of sugar of lead, in the 
trade called *^ weighted'*; but, fortunately for 
the general public, the sugar of lead bums like 
paper ; and where a great deal of it has been 
introduced, the whole fabric burns like paper, 

H3 



BEAUTY AND ART 

giving one the impression that there is no silk 
in it whatever ; and even now preparations are 
being made to manufacture a so-called silk 
yarn out of wood fibre. Verily " all men are 
liars/' 

Jute. — ^Jute is a fibre derived from a plant 
analogous to linen. It is perhaps best described 
as a very coarse, strong linen, with all the 
strength, and even more length of staple than 
linen. It is only worthy of mention because of 
the tendency to cheapen material, which has 
made it a sort of coarse substitute for the other 
vegetable fibres. It seems to have no beauty 
whatever; but may be useful enough in the 
form of packing canvas, and, at any rate, it 
employs many Dundee spinners and weavers. 

WOVEN FABRICS 

Tapestry. — ^To turn to the woven material. 

We must never lose sight of the splendid fabric 

of tapestry, at all events in these countries, 

Belgium, England, Spain, France, where we 

have learnt to know the beauty of it. It is, 

beyond all others, a fabric which Mr. Ruskin 

would call " noble " ; but it is unnecessary to 

dilate upon it here, because of its costliness. 

It is scarcely a " practical question of the hour.'* 

More essential is it to consider the fabrics made 

144 



^^W»B" 



FABRICS 

in looms, which we all buy, and which are in 
daily use. Old tapestries had generally a warp 
of cotton or linen, well embedded in cross 
threads, which were invariably worsted. 

Velvets. — Next after tapestry we must place 
velvet, not for its general utility, but for the 
beauty of the production. When one reflects 
on the velvets of Genoa and Venice, often 
figured, and containing threads of gold and 
silver, it is impossible not to be conscious of 
the beauty of the manufacture, although here 
again the warp was usually cotton. To-day 
nobody seems willing to buy anything but 
cheap imitations of them. 

The velvet woven from mohair, or mohair 
and wool (on a cotton warp again), and gene- 
rally known as Utrecht velvet, produced both in 
Germany and in the north of France, and now 
by Lister of Bradford, must not be forgotten ; 
and though it can scarcely be called beautiful, 
it is undoubtedly a most useful and excellent 
fabric. So much is this article in request, that 
the utmost ingenuity has been brought to bear 
upon the production of it ; and some clever fellow 
has found that the right way is to weave two 
pieces together, face to face, where the threads 
forming the pile are automatically cut, and the 
one piece in the loom comes out as two pieces 
in the hand. There is a shockingly bad edition 

145 K 



BEAUTY AND ART 

of this article, which bears the suspicious name 
of "plushette," and may be best described as 
an admirably designed dust-trap; and by way 
of keeping up the modern fashion for adultera- 
tion, velvet has also been made from jute, of 
which the best that can be said is that it is not 
so nasty as one might expect. And for those 
who like cheap and showy rubbish, there is 
velveteen, used as a groundwork for printed 
curtains. Though showy and fine in texture, 
it seems to have resulted in a fabric which is 
at once entirely flaccid, a quick fader, and an 
eflfectual catcher of dirt. It is a prominent 
instance of unconscientiousness in modern trade. 
Plain velveteen for dresses, which are probably 
only wanted for ephemeral use, is admissible, 
and probably a useful article. 

After these come damasks ; and (velvet alone 
possibly excepted) silk damask is the most 
beautiful fabric made, especially when the warp 
and weft are both alike of "net*' silk. The 
resource shown in the patterning of this fabric 
is beyond all praise for artistic ability. Probably 
the most beautiful fabrics in the world come 
under this head ; but the cost will always keep 
the production of them comparatively small. 

Satin Laine et Soie. — Now, if the surface 

be kept entirely silk, there is no objection to a 

backing of worsted ; and in the north of France 

146 



■■■V!iiPMMi^i«HnH«3Mr««MSBai^R»9sae«Ra«99i^i^BaH^i^a*cMe9a^ss^:sac:^iS 



FABRICS 

large quantities are made of a fabric entirely 
silk on the face, and entirely worsted behind. 
The silk in this article is only spun silk, but 
there must be cheap fabrics produced for shallow 
purses; and this article was undeniably good 
until some one, in an excessive zeal for low 
prices, did his best to spoil it by changing the 
worsted at the back to cotton (without saving 
a sixth of the whole price), and thereby pro- 
ducing an article which could only be called 
rubbish. Fortunately the public may be warned 
by the almost satirical name given to it — 
"silk sheeting." 

Modern competition here again continues to 
spoil a good article. The silk damask which 
covered the walls of an Italian palace was 
entirely "net" or "thrown" silk. The silk 
damask made for to-day's trade is nearly all 
cotton — cotton in the warp, and partly cotton 
in the weft. The lucifer match (and which of 
us does not carry lucifer matches nowadays.^) 
will detect the cotton at once. 

Lustrous Yorkshire Goods. — Next in value 
to these come a number of Yorkshire fabrics 
(woven from long-haired, springy worsted), 
whether for beauty or utility — utility both for 
dress, for curtains, for wall coverings, for 
summer clothing, and numberless other neces- 
sities of life. We speak of them as worsted 

H7 



BEAUTY AND ART 

satins, camlets, moreens, diagonals, &c., all 
made from long wool, and occasionally goat*s 
hair. If to hang in fine folds is a merit in such 
articles (and who can doubt it ?), these fabrics 
unquestionably carry the day over everything 
else. No fabric made of yarn with the flac- 
cidity of cotton or linen can be compared with 
them. The only thing remotely equal to them 
in this respect is woollen cloth, and there you 
at once start without the lustre. 

Utility. — We cannot here include questions 
of the loom, but mention must be made of 
another result of competition — the destruction 
of the usefulness of fabrics. Ordinary weav- 
ing is, of course, over one, under one ; and all 
pattern weaving is a series of varieties from 
this, whether it be a simple twill, which is over 
two, under one, of the weft, or other small 
variations which are quite consistent with the 
production of a good fabric. When, however, 
we come to the use of the Jacquard machine, 
the temptation is to take great liberties with 
this arrangement, and, roughly speaking, to go 
under one, over ten, and the result is a poor 
fabric. This should never be forgotten, be- 
cause, once let a fabric become loose in the 
construction, and its life, in reasonable con- 
dition, becomes exceedingly short. This applies 

particularly to figured fabrics with a good deal 

148 



FABRICS 

of cotton in them and very little silk. They 
may be filled with gum or size to make them 
passably saleable, while fresh from the loom ; 
but hang such a material up as curtains, or 
make it into ladies' dresses, or hang it as wall 
drapery, and you have a fabric which soon 
begins to lose its integrity, and becomes shabby 
and worthless in an incredibly short time. 

Carpets. — It is undoubtedly difficult to dis- 
cuss carpets in the limited space of an essay. 
Every one knows the beauty of an Oriental 
carpet, not alone the costly carpets made, 
probably, at the order of a potentate whose 
palace was gilded, or the exquisite work done, 
five centuries ago, with silk pile (the best of 
which were made by refugees in Poland), but 
the ordinary carpet, common throughout Asia, 
and down to the shores of the Bosphorus, 
distinguished, not alone for beauty of design, 
but almost equally for beauty of colour, and 
for technical skill in the manufacture. The 
clever and skilful way in which these carpets 
have their pile arranged slightly on the slant 
(which is preserved continuously throughout 
the life of the carpet), places them at once, 
irrespective of their beautiful colouring and 
design, ahead of our modern productions ; for 
the modern pile carpet has the exceedingly bad 

fault of its pile becoming crushed in this direc- 

149 



/ 



BEAUTY AND ART 

tion or the other, and so producing ugly places, 
which look as if they had been damaged. The 
Oriental pile, on the other hand, always slopes 
— however much worn it may become — in the 
way in which the weaver gave it its original 
cast. Perhaps, for the present, we shall have 
to content ourselves with picking the old ones 
up now and again for the well-to-do, a restora- 
tion of this work being impracticable. But the 
drop is terrible when one comes to consider the 
modern carpet — for instance, that of Kidder- 
minster — ^which, indeed, does not merit any con- 
sideration at all. 

The Brussels carpet may have been a good 
fabric twenty years ago, when its thick threads 
were made of good, long-haired Yorkshire wool, 
but modern competition has reduced the thick- 
ness of the thread and the staple of wool to 
such an extent that a Brussels carpet will not 
last one season in a London club. And the 
article is so well known, and buyers are so 
accustomed to it at a low price, that it is use- 
less to endeavour to return to the old quality. 

Patent Axminster. — It seems that the imi- 
tation Axminster carpet of Templeton and 
other makers is by far the best fabric in the 
market. It is made of worsted chenille, the 
chenille being prepared beforehand, and all the 
colours being woven in their proper places by 

150 



'^^^mmi^KfmafmmmBmm^w^ammmimmm^ 



FABRICS 

the Jacquard, or an equivalent machine. The 
chenille is woven on a cotton warp, and the 
backing-threads, which form the body of the 
carpet, are either jute or coarse worsted. Now, 
the chenille makes a complete surface, and 
unless some fool gets at the backing-threads 
with a penknife, the foot never touches any- 
thing but the pile, and nothing else is exposed 
to wear. So long as this condition of things 
holds, it is difficult to see what is to wear them 
out. They may get dirty, of course ; but de- 
struction, in the ordinary sense of the phrase, 
— " wear and tear," is impossible. It has the 
very serious defect just now mentioned : — that 
of the pile lying in varying directions instead 
of all one way ; but no doubt some clever head 
will some day remedy this defect. 

The carpet known as Wilton has, in a 
measure, the same qualities, though not woven 
of chenille, the top of the pile alone being 
exposed to wear. But it shows every seam 
plainly, and is entirely lacking in that sense of 
breadth and compactness of surface which we 
expect in a carpet. 

Cloth. — ^There remain last, but riot least, 
the multitude of very useful fabrics made of 
woollen weft, as distinguished from worsted, 
and more or less associated under the name of 
"cloth." Some of them, under the head of 



BEAUTY AND ART 

serge, are thoroughly good, hanging in good 
folds, and wearing for years. The pity of it 
is that they have been cheapened by the intro- 
duction of a cotton warp; and little by little the 
deterioration of this fabric has gone on, until the 
lower qualities are valueless; but on worsted 
warps they are thoroughly good. 

Of cloth proper there is an enormous variety. 
The article (in the processess to which it is 
subjected) becomes very much felted, and is 
then a most impervious fabric. The felting 
may be done to a great extent, or a smaller 
one, as desired. For certain purposes, as, for 
instance, the overcoat of a driver who wants 
it to turn rain, it can scarcely be overdone. 
For draperies, curtains, grounds for embroidery, 
&c., it should be done comparatively slightly, 
so as still to exhibit its construction quite 
plainly. It gains, however, sufficient firmness 
by a very moderate amount of felting to fall 
into most excellent folds. 

Character. — And this brings us to the ques- 
tion of what may be called "character" in 
woven fibres. A proportion of people, among 
whom architects are prominent, like to see the 
threads of a fabric. They feel, which is no 
doubt true, that there is an element of decep- 
tion and humbug about a fabric whose threads 

are invisible, where the whole construction is 

152 



FABRICS 

hidden beneath an artificially raised nap (as in 
the cloth which men wear in the evening), or 
in a mere fuzzle like a felt; and they would 
like to see the construction of the thing. But 
the difficulty is that a still larger number of 
people (among whom the fair sex is prominent) 
like to see everything as fine as possible; and 
this also suits the book of the shopkeeper, for 
a fine-looking article at the money is like good 
wine, it "needs no bush." But these two 
demands are inconsistent with each other. If 
the demand for a visible construction only went 
the length of excluding felts and fine satins of 
cotton or worsted, there would be no harm 
done ; but we have always to bear in mind that 
cloth, which is an excellent article, has been for 
centuries made with a raised or dressed surface, 
hiding the construction, and still, in spite of it, 
remains a most excellent fabric. The Orientals 
have been most successful in the production of 
fabrics which, while showing the construction 
plainly enough, still look good and handsome. 
And no doubt, if we all set the example of 
demanding such fabrics, Leeds would soon pro- 
vide home-made things with that character — 
a cloth which they say in the market "shows 
its bones." In Italy, the usual covering of a 
horse which brings a light cart to market is a 
cloth almost entirely without nap, generally 

^S3 



BEAUTY AND ART 

of a pale scarlet; and as facilities for inter- 
communication improve, no doubt the Italians 
will bring this material to our market. The 
French red army-cloth seems a happy medium ; 
the raising, if there be any, being exceedingly 
moderate. 

Muslin. — It is difficult to speak of the 
question of muslins, their uses are so various 
and their prices so moderate; but they have 
furnished us of late years with the Swiss Leno 
curtain, which seems to me entirely abominable, 
and the figured muslin called "Madras," of which 
the principal characteristic is that it gathers 
dirt at an unprecedented pace. If people want 
summer curtains of a thin material, they should 
be content with the muslin plain. 

Chintz. — We now come to an important 
article of modern industry — Chintz. The 
Indian prints of a century ago, going more 
or less under the name of " Palampore," 
though on thin white cotton ground (entirely 
cotton), are so exceedingly beautiful (or were) 
that they must not be forgotten. The trade 
still continues at Cawnpore and elsewhere up 
to the present day, in a cheap and less desirable 
form, but still with much merit. They are 
now printed, at a low price, on rough native 
cotton, and gain by the use of that ground, the 
whites being more ivory-like, something be- 

154 



FABRICS 

tween the shade of dark ivory and salmon. 
We have no English or French production to 
compare with them, and if the designs were 
better adapted to our modern wants, we should 
see this article in great demand. But the 
patterns are immensely large, and, as a matter 
of workmanship, very badly printed. The old 
goods of this character, produced a hundred 
years ago, were far better in workmanship, and 
on an absolutely white ground, which, with its 
accompaniment of fineness and mechanical regu- 
larity, makes us suspect that the cloth was sent 
out in the days of John Company' to be printed 
in India. A specimen was sent some years ago 
to be examined at the school of design at Lahore, 
and it came back ticketed with the remark, 
" Lahore work ; one hundred or one hundred 
and twenty years old; partly hand-painted.'* 
In the centre, at the lower part of this cur- 
tain, was a sort of ornamental hill, which was 
filled with birds and lions and other small fry ; 
and from this there grew a tree with fine foliage, 
which filled up the rest of the curtain as far as 
the borders — a most beautiful production, at 
once bright in colour and not in the least 
gaudy. Of course they must have had a 
costly and complete set of blocks (probably 
one hundred and fifty) to produce a single 
curtain. 



BEAUTY AND ART 

After seeing such a fabric, one looks with 
contempt and pity upon our modern chintzes. 
Notwithstanding these beautiful productions 
spoken of, there is no doubt that chintz print- 
ing suffers greatly from being relegated to a 
cheap cotton ground. Of course there are uses 
for a chintz on a cheap cotton ground ; but it is 
to be hoped that there will arise a demand for 
chintz (especially for use in large towns) on a 
worsted ground. The writer has seen chintz 
taken off the foot of an old wooden bed, 
which had been there ninety years, a Yorkshire 
worsted fabric (moreen), and printed at Swais- 
lands in Kent, at the end of the last century, 
and still in good condition. We only want 
some spirited person to put fine designs into 
chintz-printing, and print them on a worsted 
ground — some William Morris of his day — to 
find out how much we lose by relegating chintz 
to a shilling a yard for bedrooms. 

We have very much to learn in fabrics from 
the Oriental nations. Apart from the question 
of fineness (which they can manage when they 
wish), they have several fabrics more or less 
known under the name of "Kelim," which 
have a distinctly handsome coarseness, and 
which, even in the eyes of the European, are 
not looked down upon as being necessarily of 
low value. Our modern European manufac- 

156 



FABRICS 

tures are certainly entirely deficient in this class 
of fabric. 

It is to be hoped that the modern demand 
for adulterated fabrics may wear itself out; 
(for dress fabrics it does not matter so much, 
because their use is ephemeral ; and ladies 
may always be trusted, I think, not to buy a 
thoroughly bad fabric twice), and that ere 
long the fashion may change in favour of more 
genuine materials, and especially in favour of 
printing beautiful designs on worsted grounds, 
— a method calculated to produce, at a most 
moderate price, an article of great beauty and 
great durability. And there is no difficulty in 
colouring such a ground by the aid of a stencil 
plate, adding varied and beautiful colour to a 
fine design. 

Use. — As to the fitting use of these fabrics, 
there is no need to recommend people to buy 
curtains — that is a foregone conclusion ; but a 
word may be said respecting what is termed a 
" valance," which, in the hands of most people, 
is simply a snare. No doubt two curtains to 
a window, when drawn back during the day, 
without any connecting feature, do often look 
excessively severe and bare; but good taste 
will always come to the rescue in making this 
otherwise useless and solely aesthetic feature, a 
valance, moderate, both in style and dimen- 

157 



BEAUTY AND ART 

sions. But curtains, however ornamental in 
adding to the pleasing form and colour of a 
room, too often all come at one end or one 
side ; and if they are in contrast of colour to 
the wall, care should be taken to carry their 
form and colour to the other sides if possible. 
And here the portiere, which has also the 
advantage of appearing to be a shield from 
draughts, comes in most usefully. A drapery 
to an overmantel might be equally comely and 
advantageous. But the housewife's horror of 
dust seems generally a complete bar to the use 
of wall draperies hanging in folds. When so 
used they are always picturesque and comfort- 
able-looking ; and such draperies do not gather 
dust in anything approaching the degree in 
which window-curtains do. Draughts come 
through window-sashes, bringing dust with 
them, but no draught comes through a wall. 
In rooms where bareness and a mechanical 
hardness have been a prominent feature, a 
dado of mohair velvet, about three feet high, 
has been used with the most excellent result. 
This hung loose in folds, by rings and studs, 
from a moulded dado rail, and divided up into 
shortish lengths, answering to the breaks in 
the wall, is easy to remove and shake ; and the 
housewife's care for dust has been cajoled for 
the moment. 

158 



FABRICS 

But it is for the sanctuaries of churches that 
more hangings are principally wanted. The 
objection generally taken is that such work is 
not permanent, would be a care, would require 
replacement, &c., all of which, it may be re- 
marked, applies in even a still greater degree to 
altar-cloths and vestments, which are not thereby 
prohibited. The cloth sanctuary-hangings of 
St. Alban's Church, Holborn, after twenty-five 
years of use, were still in good condition ; and 
if architects would specify such hangings with 
as much care for the quality and material to 
be employed, as they expend upon the brick, 
stone, or slate of the fabric, there is no 
reason why they should not last fifty years, by 
which time even wooden benches, hot-water 
pipes, and lead lattices usually want a good 
overhauling. 

A large proportion of the lower part of a 
sanctuary is nearly always hard, bare, and feature- 
less; and not only will hangings introduce colour 
and softness and variety of form, which are, 
beyond all things, desirable, but they will also 
add a sense that the Presence Chamber is 
furnished and cared for, a sense which no 
carving and painting at ten times the cost can 
half so well achieve. 



X59 



'^^tmiwwi^'^^ 



'Trtfftrt iivaaM t 



T  ■111!'' 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION OF 
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 



i6i 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

pARLYLE has said that the eight- 
eenth century produced nothing 
of value but the French Revolu- 
tion ; he might, also, have excepted 
English furniture. 

It appears to require about a century for 
the wheel of fashion to make one complete re- 
volution. What our great-grandfathers bought 
and valued (1750 to 1790); what our grand- 
fathers despised and n^lected (1790 to 1820) ; 
what our fathers utterly forgot (1 820 to 1850), 
we value, restore, and copy I 

The furniture of the latter half of the last 
century— at any rate, the best specimens of it 
— has, of late, so commonly come to be re- 
garded as the best the world has yet produced, 
that no apology seems needed for an inquiry 
163 



BEAUTY AND ART 

into the circumstances of its origin and de- 
velopment. 

We are not here concerned with remarkable, 
historical, and priceless pieces of fumitufe 
made for princes and millionaires. These 
have been well illustrated by the works of 
Jacquemart, VioUet - le - Due, Havard, and 
others ; and museums not only abound in such 
specimens, but seem for the most part to ex- 
hibit no others— reminding one strongly of 
the ordinary history of the past, which begins 
and ends with accounts of kings, councillors, 
and generals; while in these democratic days 
we rather prefer to hear about the people and 
their doings. So here I propose to discuss 
and illustrate the ordinary chair, table, and 
cabinet, designed for, and especially adapted 
to, the daily use of the average Anglo-Saxon ; 
and, so considered, there is nothing to com- 
pete with the best of what we call " Chippen- 
dale " furniture. And we may see reasons for 
it not far to seek. Men of genius and educa- 
tion in art did not consider it beneath them to 
design and ornament furniture for the average 
citizen — witness such names as Vanbrugh, 
Chambers, Adam, Cipriani, Pergolesi, Angelica 
KaufFman; and even Sheraton, with all his 
vulgar pomposity, was a far superior man to 

our modern furniture designers. In France, 

164 



■^—'^^^yT'^-^™™^^^*--' . ^■ -"-"L^^L '"**^^^— '"TT— .: j.'ir* .rj-^i ^.^r^^r^^^r^^^^^. 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

Louis XIV. and his minister Colbert had 
established (1664) a Royal Academy of 
Painting, Architecture, and Sculpture; and 
Lebrun the painter was attached to it, to 
provide fine designs for furniture; whilst in 
England (following France, as usual, a century 
later) the rapid spread of comparative wealth 
to a greatly enlarged class of the community 
had opened the door at once to good design 
and good workmanship for common articles 
of daily use. 

The desire to possess fine chairs, sideboards, 
and cabinets, of the style we know as " Chippen- 
dale," "Adams,"* or "Sheraton," has spread 
to such a large proportion of educated and 
well-to-do people, that it may safely be said 
that the best of those productions are sold 
daily at quite three times their original cost ; 
and though this, and far more than this, may 
be said of many things which come to the 
hammer at " Christie's," yet, in the case of 
this eighteenth century furniture, it is not 
merely rare and historical pieces that fetch 
good prices, but the rank and file of all the 
best work of the two Chippendales, Sheraton, 
Heppelwhite, or Shearer, or even articles sup- 
posed to have been designed by the brothers 

* The brothers Adam were architects, and although they 
designed furniture, they certainly never maiie any. 

165 



BEAUTY AND ART 

Adam, Richardson, and the small army of their 
imitators. And this is not on special occasions 
and at favourite auction rooms alone, but every- 
where, all over the land — ^wherever good things 
are appreciated. 

We feel the bulk of this furniture to be at 
once good to look at, useful for daily life, 
constructively excellent, and within the reach 
of the average purse; and we have come to 
understand, very certainly, the clumsiness and 
impracticability of the Stuart furniture of the 
seventeenth century, the grossly false taste and 
ugliness of the productions of the last two 
reigns, and the weakness and want of character 
of a so-called " Early English " fad of our own 
times ; and, by contrast, good " Chippendale " 
furniture, even when badly notched and some- 
what worm-eaten, appears most excellent and 
desirable. Beyond doubt, a considerable number 
of London cabinetmakers have been employed, 
for some years past, in restoring and reproduc- 
ing it. 

It is pleasant to think of it as a distinctly 
English style, for it became so as its develop- 
ment proceeded ; but its origin is beyond doubt 
French — French of the period of Louis Qua- 
torze, and not in any sense a development from 
the English furniture of Queen Elizabeth and 

the Stuarts. We borrowed it from France 

i66 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

during that most remarkable period when 
France, under Louis XIV., was engaged in 
inaugurating a new era in the development 
of art — a movement which placed her in the 
van of civilised nations, in all matters relating 
to the housing of the wealthy — in advance of 
Italy, the source of all these arts; and in a 
position which she has maintained, at least up 
to the Revolution, if not indeed to the present 
time. 

But, having borrowed it, the natural sobriety 
of the English turn of mind toned down its 
eccentricities, stiffened its curves, and added 
an air of severity; while the French went on 
developing it in the other direction, until the 
French parentage of the English branch has 
become all but invisible, and we regard it as 
a style of our own. 

Any one, however, who will take the trouble 
to study the historical development of furniture 
at a good museum, may soon see the marked 
contrast between the forms of English furniture 
of the seventeenth century, nearly always archi- 
tectural — pilaster, shaft, arcade — and the grace- 
ful and flowing lines of the work produced in 
1 730 and onwards. Wherever the architectural 
forms were deserted, sweeps and curves were 
introduced, the originals of which may invari- 
ably be found in work of a century or more 

167 



BEAUTY AND ART 

earlier from Italy, Germany, Flanders, and 
France, but mostly from France. 

Chippendale was, in the first place, and prin- 
cipally, a carver — a maker of extravagant and 
flamboyant frames to mirrors and girandoles; 
and so eagerly did he copy the original, that 
he actually seems to have outdone the French 
upon their own ground. 

But when one looks at the all-but-unbridged 
gulf which seemed, thirty years ago, to separate 
us from the daily life, from the furniture- 
designers and cabinetmakers of Germany, Italy, 
and France, it seems at first sight puzzling that 
W. Jones in 1739, Copeland in 1746, Thomas 
Chippendale in 1754, and Ince and Mayhew 
probably* only a year or two later, should 
suddenly have appeared with large folio and 
quarto books of costly copper and steel en- 
gravings, with all the signs of a full-blown 
" style " about them, and that in contrast, 
rather than otherwise, to the existing style of 
this country. 

Later on, we had good designers, men of 
superior cultivation and opportunities, who 
spoke French, travelled to Rome and Greece, 
and published books of design, two or three 
of them in French as well as English — Sir 
William Chambers (by no means always good), 

* Their book is undated. 
168 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

1760; the brothers Adam,* 1773, et seg.; 
George Richardson, 1781; Pergolesi, 1777,^/ 
seq. ; Cipriani, 1786. But previous to 1739, 
judging by such books as exist, no English 
designer seems to have published anything 
worth notice. 

How, then, did Chippendale, and his fel- 
low cabinetmakers, or perhaps, to speak more 
correctly, their predecessors, arrive at their 
Louisr^uatorze style ? 

In these days of easy communication, by 
railway, steamer, and telegraph, we are apt to 
think of our forefathers, without these advan- 
tages, as almost necessarily chained to their 
homes ; and imagine the difficulties of travelling 
so great for them, that we infer that they did 
not travel at all. But this is a great mistake. 
The campaigns of Marlborough alone t must 

* To be sure the Adams, Chippendale, and Sheraton all 
pose before us as founding themselves entirely on Greek and 
Roman originals, and give minute drawings and descriptions 
of each of the so-called ^^ five orders " ; and so long as they 
can keep to doors and windows, arcades and friezes, all is 
tolerably Greek and Roman ; but the moment they have to 
design something for which they can find no Greek or Roman 
model, at once they descend without hesitation or apology to 
out-and-out French Renaissance. 

t Commenced in 1704. Peace of Utrecht, 17 13. As 
dates are handy in such a question, here are three leading 
ones — Louis XIV., 1643-17 15 ; Louis XV., 17 15-1774; 
Louis XVL, 1744 to Revolution. 

169 



BEAUTY AND ART 

have taken a multitude of our countrymen 
abroad, and no doubt the bric-k-brac dealer 
of the period would follow at a safe distance, 
to pick up what he could in the track of the 
armies. Paris, Florence, and Rome, have always 
been a source of attraction to architects, men of 
letters, men of leisure ; and when men travelled 
less often and more deliberately, beyond doubt 
they travelled to more purpose. The inter- 
course between our Stuart kings and the French 
court was close and intimate ; and we con- 
stantly find in history accounts of men of wealth 
and influence bringing highly skilled workmen 
to England, from Flanders, from Italy, and 
from France, to produce articles of luxury of 
which our manufacturers were ignorant. More- 
over, there was an infinitely stronger bond of 
social intercourse between the French and 
English* peoples than ever has existed since 
the Revolution. And last, but not least, a 
craze, which lasted a long time, and has not 
even yet quite departed, in favour of France 

* A curious instance of this is to be seen in a book of 
engravings for silversmiths, evidently for French trade with 
England; many of the articles depicted being entitled in 
English — ^thus, " a T pot," &c., and yet the whole is mani- 
festly French work. The South Kensington copy has no 
title or date, and is assigned to 1780— but looks earlier. 
There are 141 carefully executed steel plates, the designs 
being, for the most part, excellent, simple, and severe. 

170 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

and French taste, had set in with extraordinary 
ardour during the reigns of our first two 
Georges (George I., 171 4- 1727; George II., 
1727-1760). 

The attention of men like Chippendale being 
thus turned to French taste, let us see what 
means would be readily within their reach for 
obtaining the Louis-Quatorze style in all its 
details. 

Jacques Androuet, called " du Cerceau," a 
Frenchman, had published a book in 1550 
(twice afterwards reprinted), which, besides a 
good deal purely Pompeian in design, con- 
tained quite enough of what we now call 
*' Louis Quatorze" to instruct a man with 
Chippendale's adaptability. The leg of a table 
or a chair, ending in an eagle's or dog's 
claw, and ornamented at the top with a low- 
relief acanthus leaf, is there exactly ; and what 
Chippendale calls his " terms " (bases for busts, 
&c.) seem to have been copied straight off from 
Androuet. The carver's foliage for mirrors in 
Androuet's second book is so exactly what 
Chippendale produced that one feels he must 
have had a copy of this charming little book, 
just such as a carver would buy. If you add 
to all this the curved " cabriole " leg, a form of 
terminal, whether of chair, table, or cabinet, 

which at once distinguishes the feeling of the 

171 



BEAUTY AND ART 

design from its architectural predecessors, you 
have a distinctive characteristic of our " Chip- 
pendale" furniture. I have not found any 
illustrated book, so early as Androuet's, with 
this form distinctly given, but historical pieces 
of furniture of German or Flemish work, as 
early as 1620, are in existence, showing it in 
full development ; and it is more than probable 
that some such pieces of furniture would find 
their way to London during Marlborough's 
campaigns. 

A French cabinetmaker, Jean le Pautre, 
published several books, illustrating chimney- 
pieces and overmantels, — extravagant truly, 
but scarcely more so than some of Chippen- 
dale's designs. His principal work is entitled 
CEuvres d' Architecture^ &c. (3 vols, folio, 
Paris, 175 1). 

These books, together, would be sufficient 
to instruct all our cabinetmakers in the de- i 

tails of the French Renaissance. They are full 
of power, but altogether deficient in restraint 
— ;the very weakness of Chippendale himself. 

An important book by Charles le Brun 
(Paris, 1672, ^/ seq^ was not likely to have been 
overlooked by such men as Adam and Darly, 
and was in all respects useful, both for the 
architect and the cabinetmaker. 

A still more important book, wider in its 

172 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

range of subject, by J. Berain (Paris, 1663, et 
se^.) — and another, where Berain worked in 
company with Chauveau and Le Moine, 17 10, 
were sure to be known to men who could write 
in French on furniture and decoration ; and 
here are the models for Chippendale's fluttering 
ribands for chair-backs. 

D. Marot (Amsterdam, 17 12) published a 
beautiful book of design, in which one at once 
sees the source of Chippendale's tall clock- 
cases. The English productions are plainer, 
but all the leading lines figure in this book. 

G. C. Erassmus (NUrnberg, 1659, ei se^.) 
gives the exact prototype of the highly orna- 
mental mirror-frame of Lock, Johnson, and 
Chippendale, and plates of "swags" of flowers, 
and other ornaments, all in full light and shade : 
a treasure-house for a carver and gilder, when 
such books were scarce. 

A book by Boucher, Ranson, and Lalonde 
(Paris, undated), would give Chippendale pat- 
terns of extravagant beds and sofas to his heart's 
content. 

And though it is somewhat difficult to 
determine whether the furniture part of Du- 
tionnaire des Sciences^ des A rts et des Mdtiers^ 
small folio (Paris, no date), was published 
before or after Chippendale's book, yet here is 
his vulgar rococo sofa ; and if he did not copy 

173 




BEAUTY AND ART 

it from that book, both were copied from a 
common source of a little earlier date. 

Grinling Gibbons, who died in 1721, and 
left many pupils behind him, would do much 
to make some advances towards causing French 
taste to be more easily appreciated ; and between 
1 64 1 and 1737 several French cabinetmakers, 
less known to fame,* published illustrated 
books of furniture. And still more to the 
point, mirrors^ with highly ornamental frames, 
b^an to be a much-admired and coveted article 
in France in 1650 ; and so greatly was the im- 
portance of this article esteemed as a decoration 
for the houses of the rich, that the Duke of 
Buckingham brought glassworkers from Venice, 
in order to establish this manufacture, and 
settled them at Lambeth — a trade which still 
lingers there. 

Now the Chippendales, father and son, were, 
as I have said, principally carvers ; and carving 
of high merit was manifestly a characteristic of 
English decorative art of the period. Cope- 
land, who, in point of time, seems the first of 
the publishers of these illustrations, was also 
a carver. Chippendale, to be sure, became a 

* E.g,^ J. Barbet, 1641 ; H. Goltzius, about 1641 ; P. 
Mignard, 1650 and 1700; Juste Aur^le Meissonier, about 
1670; P. Bourdon, 1703; Nicholas Pineau, 17 10; Le- 
blond, 1 7 16; G. Brunetti, 1736; E. Bouchardon, 1737. 

174 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

maker of all sorts of furniture, but quite a 
large proportion of the men whose illustrated 
books we possess, dated 1746 and onwards, 
were carvers only ; * and I cannot help think- 
ing, that the demand for ornamentally framed 
mirrors (a most attractive novelty to those who 
could pay for them, and had fine reception rooms) 
was largely the origin of the whole movement, 
so far as the cabinetmakers were concerned. 
The glass mirror itself had had a comparatively 
late origin in Venice ; from Italy it had passed 
to France ; and it was inevitable that an English- 
man should receive it framed in Renaissance 
taste, and that the Renaissance of France. 

It is somewhat difficult to see what was 
the aim of these architects, cabinetmakers, and 
decorators. Did they not know that the " Re- 
naissance'' of classical form and feeling had 
been going on, for at least three centuries, in 
Italy, in Belgium, in France ? Had they only 
just awakened to the fact ? Or, did they con- 
template the creation of a little renaissance for 
themselves? That this latter must have been 
the idea of such men as Adam and Richardson 
is evident; but it is most comical to consider 
the mental condition of Chippendale, Sheraton, 
and other cabinetmakers, posing before their 

* E.g.j Matthias Lock, 1765; Thomas JohnsoD, 1761 ; 
G. Lairesse, about 1750. 

J75 



g^lW^— 11^1— ilpW^— ^W^«^— n I  ■—  t t0&'9m^m^^*f^^^^ 



BEAUTY AND ART 

beloved five orders as " the very soul and basis 
of art,'* " the true and only fount of real art," 
&c., and calling all men to assist them in a 
return to those forms and principles ; and then 
accepting, with avidity, the most ultra-French 
development of a Renaissance now grown old, 
and not a little the worse for wear ! 

One cannot but see that, for them at least, 
the whole pretended desire for a neo-classicism 
was a mere pandering to the dilettanteism of 
the day ; that they felt that to appear as high- 
class designers, it was desirable to follow as 
closely as possible in the footsteps of Wren, 
Inigo Jones, and the rest ; and then, having 
appeased their consciences by an extravagant 
preface, and opening chapters, about the " fount 
of pure art," &c., they could, with a better 
grace, give illustrations of wAai would sell; 
that being, in the main, French Renaissance ; no 
matter that it was as far in spirit from "the 
only fount " as Gothic itself ! 

But French Renaissance was a style eminently 
well calculated, in furniture at least, to meet 
the wants of well-to-do people ; and the banks 
of prejudice having once been broken down, 
the flood came, and swept the devoted five 
orders into the sea. 

It was impossible that Chippendale and 

Darly's style — applied, as it was, to every 

176 



v^ 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

furniture requirement in a well-to-do house — 
should have sprung into existence in a decade, 
or even in two; for no good art work ever 
grew up of a sudden, like a mushroom, but 
always has been a development of a previous 
success. Still, it is interesting to note the evi- 
dences which Chippendale himself affords us 
of an earlier parentage of the style. First, he 
gives us — an early plate of the first edition 
(1754) — two chairs, with perspective lines 
about them : one of them perfectly plain, such 
as one sees in an old farmhouse ; and again a 
plate of six chair-backs, also relatively plain 
and severe. These two plates are in contrast 
to the rest of the book, and he passes them 
by as of no moment, as if to suggest, " These 
are the ordinary things of ordinary people; 
my mission is to make grander things for the 
nobility and gentry ! " Then, also early in his 
first edition, he gives the same chair over-loaded 
with ornament to a degree which, to our eyes, 
ruins it ; and one cannot escape the conviction 
that he found the chair in the plainer condi- 
tion, and that the ornamentation was his part 
of the business. The chair, of course, must 
have been invented plain, and the ornament 
must have come afterwards. 

So that I think we cannot assign a later date 
for the infancy of the style than about the be- 

177 M 



v~* 



^ 



BEAUTY AND ART 

ginning of the eighteenth century. Many cir- 
cumstances seem to have conspired about this 
time to produce a great start forward in adapt- 
ing all the surroundings of the well-to-do to a 
vastly improved condition of material comfort 
and dignity of life; while, at the same time, 
the class so environed was increasing rapidly 
in numbers. English society was awakening 
from a past of comparative rudeness and bar- 
barism; the burgher, merchant, and yeoman 
were beginning to enjoy a share of the position, 
distinction, and wealth, hitherto the monopoly 
of the soldier, the aristocrat, and the courtier ; 
the arts of peace were beginning to be re- 
spected and admired ; and, simultaneously with 
the energy of the movement, or perhaps actually 
proceeding from it, there rose, as it were, a 
fine wave of vigorous designing power with a 
corresponding power of practical application. 
Chippendale was in a position to feel these new 
conditions quickly (having, through his father, 
I imagine, already a connection among wealthy 
people, for highly ornamental mirrors and the 
like), and was able to take the tide "at the 
flood " ; so that, notwithstanding his constant 
tendency to foolish and vulgar ornamentation, 
there is some justice in our having called the 
style by his name. 

It is greatly to be regretted, however, that, 

178 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

instead of giving us plates, nine-tenths of 
which are mere " show-pieces," intended to 
tempt wealthy people, he did not give a volume 
of drawings of the average daily produce of 
his workshop. For nowhere, throughout his 
book, do we find drawings of the very best 
furniture then made: to almost every design 
he adds a coating of over-ornamentation, now 
Flamboyant — now Gothic — now "Chinese!" 
and to see the cream of the productions of his 
period, one has to go to the well-appointed 
house of a rich man — to the occasional auctions 
— or, to the bric-a-brac shop.* 

Nevertheless, his plates, in the aggregate, 
with useless ornament omitted (he frequently 
calls attention to the possibility of this), do 
give us the main elements of the style, and 
are consequently valuable. Heppelwhite and 
Sheraton were both more practical, and so, in 
a sense, their designs are individually of more 
interest. But, as we approach Sheraton's time, 

* Curiously, not one of these men giyes us a drawing, or 
even an approach to one, of the favourite little mahogany- 
framed mirror, carved or pierced above and below, with 
a gilt bird coming through a hole at the top-— 4in ornamental 
object of interest to be found in half the well-fiimished 
houses of the land, and undoubtedly an heirloom from 
Chippendale's time : indeed, London bric-a-brac shops have 
usually some on sale quite a century old, as well as 
copies. 

179 



BEAUTY AND ART 

the vigour and originality of the movement 
were fast beginning to disappear; and with a 
rapidity which is quite remarkable, all that was 
potent and virile in it completely vanished ; 
so that it is difficult to find a design dated 1 800 
and onwards which is worth attention. The 
wave that had transformed our home sur- 
roundings had ebbed, and left us stranded ; 
stranded, too, in the times of the fourth 
George and his successor — a period devoid 
of interest or of power — flat, stale, and un- 
profitable — from which we have but lately 
emerged. 

Let me enumerate some of the leading men 
who contributed to the movement, and, as far 
as the dates of their books go, in chronological 
order. 

W. JONES 
(410, London, 1739) 

has apparently the honour of being about the 
first of those who have left us an illustrated 
book bearing upon our subject. He calls him- 
self an architect, and gives many illustrations 
of a sort of neoclassicism (far better done, a 
little later, by the brothers Adam). His mir- 
rors and chimney-pieces, however, have merit, 

and his book is modest and unassuming. 

180 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

INIGO JONES AND KENT 
(Folio, London, 1744.) 

Some of Inigo Jones's chimney-pieces are 
good, though ponderous. There is the air of 
the competent architect about them, as one 
might expect, and for halls of large houses or 
public buildings they might well be useful. 
How he came to ally himself with Kent it is 
not easy to understand, Kent's part of the 
work being weak and worthless. 

H. COPELAND 

(1746.) 

Plates are occasionally obtainable, signed H. 
Copeland, and dated 1746. They may have 
been his first attempts in this direction, and 
never put together in book-form. They con- 
sist of mirror-frames only, and point, as men- 
tioned elsewhere, to the mirror as having 
possibly originated the illustrated furniture 
books. 

THOMAS CHIPPENDALE 

(First Edition, folio, London, 1754 ; Second Edition, 
folio, 1759 ; Third Edition, folio, 1762.) 

It is rather disconcerting to find this man, 
to whom, in common parlance, we agree to 

181 



BEAUTY AND ART 

attribute our style (and who certainly has left 
us an abundance of copperplate engravings), 
not only not a man of education and modesty, 
but a very commonplace and vulgar hawker of 
his wares, prepared to make anything that will 
please his customers and fill his purse. 

He calls his book "The Gentleman and 
Cabinetmaker's Director," " being a large col- 
lection of the most elegant and useful designs 
of household furniture, in the Gothic, Chinese, 
and modern taste " ! " To which is prefixed 
a short explanation of the five orders of archi- 
tecture, and rules of perspective, with proper 
directions for executing the most difficult 
pieces," &c. ** Calculated to improve and 
refine the present taste," &c. ; then follows a 
quotation from Ovid, and another from 
Horace ! He dedicates it to the Earl of 
Northumberland, in the usual inflated style of 
the period : *' My lord, your intimate acquaint- 
ance with all those arts and sciences that tend 
to perfect and adorn life," &c. Then, under 
a very pretty headpiece (probably Italian), he 
commences his preface in this bombastic style : 
" Of all the arts which are either improved or 
ornamented by architecture, that of cabinet- 
making is the most useful and ornamental." 
(He does not see that at this precise time 

English cabinetmakers had begun to desert 

182 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

architectural lines and guidance !) "I have 
therefore prefixed to the following designs a 
short explanation of the five orders. Without 
an acquaintance with this science, and some 
knowledge of the rules of perspective, the 
cabinetmaker cannot make the rules of his 
work intelligible : . . . they are the very soul 
and basis of his art." (It is worthy of remark 
that his perspective generally spoils his draw- 
ings of chairs, where the back legs seem mis- 
placed and ridiculous, and elsewhere it always 
seems pedantic and out of place.) Then he 
talks about "the Venus of Apelles, and the 
Jove of Phidias " ! He expects adverse criti- 
cism, but says, " I shall repay their censures 
with contempt — they have neither good nature 
to commend, judgment to correct, nor skill 
to execute what they find fault with." He 
appears to have been conscious that many of 
his designs could hardly be put into practical 
shape (an accusation which Sheraton, in 1791, 
does not hesitate to make in the plainest terms), 
for he says, "I will not scruple to attribute 
this to malice, ignorance, and inability; and 
I am confident I can convince all noblemen, 
gentlemen, and others who will honour me 
with their commands," &c. Granting that this 
smacks mainly of the false literary style of the 
eighteenth century, let us see what indications 

183 



BEAUTY AND ART 

we can find of his personal taste and discrimi- 
nation. He says, " Plate XVI. is three riband 
back chairs, which ... are the best I have ever 
seen (or perhaps have ever been made),** &c. 
But the riband is almost the worst type of 
ornament which the Chippendale chair ever 
carried. " Plates XXL and XXII. are six new 
designs of Gothic (!) chairs ; and Plates XXIII., 
XXIV., and XXV. are nine chairs in the pre- 
sent Chinese manner (!), which I hope will 
improve that taste. ... I think it the most 
useful of any other" (the italics are mine). 
We talk of the " Chippendale style " nowadays, 
as if Chippendale had been mainly the inventor, 
certainly the chief expositor of it, yet here he 
is giving equal prominence to Gothic (the very 
worst of what we now recognise as " Church- 
warden's Gothic "), and greater prominence still 
to would-be " Chinese " ! " Plate XXXI. is a 
domed bed ; . . . there are four dragons going 
up from each corner. The head-board has a 
small temple with a joss or Chinese god; on 
each side is a Chinese man at worship," &c. 
His designs for beds are miracles of false and 
foolish taste, and one cannot believe that he 
ever anticipated that the bulk of them would 
be carried into execution. Further on he refers 
to a " Gothic " bookcase as " one of the best of 

its kind, and would give me great pleasure to 

184 



• i 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

see it executed, as I doubt not of its making 
an exceeding genteel and grand appearance ; " 
while the next plate but one " is a desk and 
bookcase in the Chinese taste, and will look 
extremely well." He is evidently delighted 
with his " Chinese " designs — " nine designs of 
chairs after the Chinese manner ; . . . they will 
suit Chinese temples " ! 

After reading a few pages written in this 
style, one stares in amazement at his glorifica- 
tion of the five orders, and the pedantically 
exact drawings of each of them in careful detail 
(probably done for him by his friend and 
helper, Matthew Darly, an architect — see 
further on). Was this, and the magniloquent 
talk about perspective, genuine.'^ or was it 
merely intended to give his book an architec- 
tural and scientific air ? One cannot resist the 
suspicion, for he never seemed to try for a 
moment to bring his five orders into practical 
use for his cabinets. We can aflFord to smile 
now at this cabinetmaker vapouring about his 
neo-Greek, but no doubt it was then thought 
by the " noblemen, gentlemen, and others " to 
whom he addressed himself, that all good art 
must flow from Greece as a fountain-head, and 
it would sound and look well to begin directly 
from Greek temples. Nevertheless, the eager 
tradesman could not but peep out, and in spite 

185 



BEAUTY AND ART 

of "the true fount of art," he found that 
"Gothic" and "Chinese" chairs and cabinets 
would selly and he puffed them accordingly, 
and that rather more than his French Renais- 
sance designs. To work even as near the neo- 
Greek as the Adams, he makes not the feeblest 
attempt. 

His most ambitious designs are, I imagine, 
merely advertising suggestions of what he is 
prepared to make, if he can get orders — witness 
Plate CXI., " a China case, not only the richest 
and most magnificent in the whole, but perhaps 
in all Europe. ... I should have much plea- 
sure in the execution of it," &c. 

There is a plate alluded to above (No. XVI. 
in the third edition), consisting of six backs of 
chairs — ^simple and severe, quite the best of 
his chair designs, and appearing to belong to 
the early stage of the developments of the 
" Chip " chair, though not in the first edition. 
He passes this plate by without a word of com- 
ment, although almost every other plate has 
a few words, and often several sentences of 
praise. 

So that, with every desire to accord the 
utmost value to Chippendale's book, and valu- 
able it certainly is, as the earliest and most 
comprehensive exponent of the style, one can- 
not for a moment rank its author as a man of 

i86 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 



"taste." His desire to pander to any sort 
of trumpery fancy of the hour, now so-called 
"Chinese," now extravagant Louis Quatorze, 
now " Churchwarden's Gothic," led him into 
continual trouble ; for, going parefuUy through 
the third edition (which does not differ mate- 
rially from the first), and, with every desire to 
be fair and broadminded, dividing the designs 
into four groups, one comes to some such 
result as this — Good, 60 ; Passable {i.e.^ designs 
with merit in them, but partially spoiled by 
false detail), 103; Fantastic and foolish, 146; 
with a remainder of 107 which can only be 
called preposterous, impossible, or outrageous. 
That is to say, the good and passable are 
scarcely as two to three of the others. 

Later, he published a 4to book of designs 
(undated) for " Sconces, Chimney and Looking- 
glass frames in the old French style" (the 
only place in which I can find any acknow- 
ledgment of his indebtedness to the French), 
which is at once commonplace, vulgar, and 
largely impracticable. 

EDWARDS AND DARLEY 

(4to, London, 1754. Darley, spelt also Darly.) 

"A new book of Chinese designs," &c. 
The Chinese mania appears to have been raging 

187 



BEAUTY AND ART 

rather fiercely just then, probably owing to the 
influence of Sir William Chambers, who, how- 
ever, did not appear in print till rather later. 
There are some drawings of flowers and birds 
in this book, in the Chinese manner, worth 
passing attention, but otherwise it is a mere 
tissue of folly and weakness. 

THOMAS JOHNSON 

(Small folio, Westminster, 1758, and small 4to, 

London, 1761.) 

Johnson was a carver, and his book mainly 
consists of designs for girandoles, picture- 
frames, mirror-frames, and candlesticks — no 
chairs, tables, or cabinets. Curiously, this book 
is dedicated, on a florid and pedantic title-page, 
to Lord Blakeney, ^^ Grand President of the 
Anti-Gallican A ssociattony^ the designs being, 
however, extremely French. Probably he feels 
that he may defend himself somewhat by adding, 
" 'Tis a duty incumbent on an author to en- 
deavour at pleasing every taste ! '* His designs 
are quite as foolish and impossible as the worst 
of Chippendale's, though not quite so pre- 
tentious. In 1 76 1 he published a smaller 
rdchauffi of the book, very stupid and vulgar ; 
some of the girandoles are incredibly false and 

foolish. 

188 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 



INCE AND MAYHEW 

(Folio, London, undated, but probably earlier than 

1760.) 

The title-page, both English and French, 
describes the book to be " in the most elegant 
taste " ; " the whole made convenient to the 
nobility and gentry." There is a flowery in- 
scription to the Duke of Marlborough; and 
we are informed—" and with same regard any 
gentleman may furnish as neat at a small ex- 
pense as he can elegant and superb at a great 
one " ! {sic). Matthias Darly, the assistant of 
Chippendale, appears to have been engaged as 
engraver, and the book purports to be partly 
" a drawing-book adapted to young beginners,'* 
who are to copy excessively rococo and florid 
ornament, like the most extreme French work. 
They give plates of excessively over -orna- 
mented "Chip" chairs, and beds quite as 
absurd and vulgar as Chippendale's — indeed, 
all these men seemed to lose their heads the 
moment they designed a bed. Some of the 
dressing-tables and chests of drawers are fairly 
good, though none seem quite worth repro- 
ducing. There is the absurd disposition to 
be "Chinese" which we have seen in others 

of this period, and "un grand sofa" rather 

189 



BEAUTY AND ART 

out - Chippendales Chippendale in its gross 
vulgarity. Altogether it might be described 
as a foolish and worthless book, unworthy of 
notice, were it not for its important size, costly 
plates, and presumably early date. 



A SOCIETY OF UPHOLSTERERS 

(4tOy London, no date, which I presume to be about 1760. 
Entitled <« Genteel Household Furniture.") 

There is no preface, and the names of designers 
and engravers are mostly omitted. The plates 
consist largely of chairs — Gothic chairs, Chinese 
chairs, and very florid " Chip " chairs, these last 
being a sort of false and clumsy travesty of 
Louis-Quatorze work. But suddenly, in the 
middle of the book comes a plate of altogether 
different style — no designer's name given, but 
inscribed "Couse sculpt." — a cabinet, not im- 
portant, but severe, simple, and pretty. It is 
repeated, with slight alterations, several times, 
and like Chippendale's six chair-backs, alluded 
to above, seems to point back to an earlier and 
purer condition of the style. The compilers give 
an illustration of a nice wrought-iron balcony, 
two or three bits of pretty iron-work for the 
brackets of inn signboards, such as one still 

sees in Barnet and elsewhere, and a good orna- 

190 



I 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

mental chain for a candelabrum ; but otherwise 
the book is devoid of interest, and may be con- 
sidered a copy of Chippendale, and not of 
Chippendale's best. They also published a 
second edition, and two appendices, of no 
special value. 



MATTHIAS LOCK 

(410, London, 1765-68 ; alto post 4to, no date; also 

oblong 4to, 1769.) 

Lock was a carver, and his works are mainly 
interesting as helping to show that this series 
of books on furniture, rapidly following each 
other, was originated, as elsewhere observed, by 
the carvers. Lock is ultra-French and fantastic 
in his designs, and, in his higher flights, often 
very vulgar. His books may be considered 
useless. The South Kensington Museum con- 
tains a folio of original sketches, with a few 
prints from steel or copper plates interspersed, 
ascribed to Lock and H. Copeland (mentioned 
above), and containing, amid numerous scrappy 
details of the carver, some lovely drawings of 
a plant of the acanthus tribe, presumably for 
carving from. The chairs are not good, and 
there is nothing else worth notice. 



191 



■^^^»^— —^■^^^■^^■^^1^  mt i<^^—i » I 111 «■«■' '» m-^ < 






BEAUTY AND ART 

ROBERT MANWARING AND OTHERS 

(8to, London, 1766. '< The Chairmaker's Guide; 200 
New and Genteel Designs/') 

Manwaring was evidently the moving spirit 
of the "Society of Upholsterers" mentioned 
above; for they published a second edition, 
undated, to many of the designs in which 
Manwaring now added his name ; and the book, 
published in 1766, where his name appears on 
the title-page, contains a great many of the 
very plates previously used for the Society's 
book. He gives a large number of illustra- 
tions of " Chip " chairs, but never manages 
to draw a really good one. The "Gothic" 
chairs are rather worse than one had thought 
possible. The "Hall" chairs are quite pre- 
posterous. 

N. WALLIS, ARCHITECT 

(Oblong 4to, London, 1771. Entitled "A Book of Oraa- 
menu." Also, oblong 4to, 1772, "The Complete 
Modern Joiner.'*) 

Wallis has a simple and modest title-page 

and preface; and though he is beset by the 

fear of departing by one jot or tittle from his 

supposed Greek models, yet his book is well 

worth examination, being free from rubbish, 

and full of most excellent chimney-pieces. 

192 



- i   i^"" ^ •«•! -^»w«-"w^"»^™«-   ««v>wi^va 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 



R. AND J. ADAM 
(First Edition, 3 rols. folio, London, 1773, et seq,) 

Their book is entitled "The Works in 
Architecture of Robert and James Adam, 
Esquires," and is printed in parallel columns 
of French and English, in large folio, on 
splendid paper, edition de Ijixe. Robert ap- 
pears to have been mainly the designer. The 
work was published in numbers and parts, and 
was continued from 1773 to 1779. After 
their death in 1822, a further part was pub- 
lished, but it is of quite inferior interest. 

This noble work, splendid alike in design, 

in draughtsmanship, in execution, and in taste, 

must surely have had a share in forming the 

national style, probably greater than all the 

other books we are considering put together. 

For though it is called an architectural work, 

and is entirely passed in silence by Sheraton when 

he discusses his competitors' works, it contains 

far more plates of articles of furniture than 

many of the so-called furniture books; and 

besides thirty-two designs for chimney-pieces, 

ceilings, cornices, &c., which may rightly be 

considered as entirely architectural, it gives us 

no less than sixty-four designs for mirrors, 

sconces, draped cornices, side-tables, bookcases, 

193 N 



BEAUTY AND ART 

clocks, lamps, &c., all well worth reproducing. 
For the brothers Adam justly considered all 
the fittings of a house as coming within the 
scope of their art; and if we could only be 
sure that our architects possessed the Adams' 
taste and discretion, nothing could be more 
desirable than that they should undertake them 

now. i 

i 

To be sure, they were religiously devoted j 

to those worshipful five orders, and they tied | 

themselves, as tightly as ever they knew how, 
to that arbitrary standard ; and, in consequence, 
their designs are often wanting in freedom, and 
at times in adaptability to the end in view; 
and one cannot help continually stopping to 
wonder, if they could do so much, restrained by 
such inelastic leading strings, what might they 
not have done if their sympathies had had a 
wider base ? But we must take the past as we 
find it ; and, considering the vile taste which sur- 
rounded them on all sides — the false standards 
set up by a pretended admiration of classic 
work on the one hand, and an extravagant 
desire to follow all the excesses of the French 
Renaissance on the other, we cannot be too 
thankful for this splendid work. 

The frontispiece and preface, one must con- 
fess, are not a little trying. "A student 

conducted to Minerva, who points to Greece 

194 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

and Italy as the countries from whence he must 
derive the most perfect knowledge of taste," 
&c., forms the title of a large and ultra-showy 
frontispiece; and in the preface they claim to 
have themselves "in some measure brought 
about a kind of revolution in the whole system 
of this beautiful and elegant art" (architec- 
ture), "and in the decoration of the inside, 
an almost total change." " It seems to have 
been reserved for the present time to see com- 
partment ceilings carried to a degree of per- 
fection in Great Britain that far surpasses any of 
the former attempts of other modern nations." 
" Whether our works have not contributed to 
diffuse these improvements through this country, 
we shall leave to the impartial public ; ... we 
flatter ourselves we have been able to seize, with 
some degree of success, the beautiful spirit of 
antiquity, and to transfuse it with novelty and 
variety through all our numerous works!" 
They go on to claim that they have designed 
" every kind of ornamental furniture." " The 
style of the ornament and the colouring of the 
Countess of Derby's dressing-room (imitated 
from vases of the Etruscans) show the first idea 
of applying this taste to the decoration of apart- 
ments ! " " In architecture, Inigo Jones rescued 
us from Gothicism ; Wren was enabled to ex- 
hibit his genius in St. Paul's ; Vanbrugh under- 

195 



BEAUTY AND ART 

stood the art bf living among the great ; " and 

the brothers Adam "claim to have carried on 

and completed the diffusion of better taste ! " 

Clearly, they were not free from the charge of 

false taste in preface-writing, but we must allow 

a good deal for the bombastic literary style of 

the period, and we forgive the high-sounding 

talk, when we open the book. Its weakness, for 

the purposes of this inquiry, is that the Adams 

seem to have designed entirely for rich people, 

who, one would think, never considered the cost 

of anything ; and this to some extent lands the 

work among specialities and museum collections, 

and deprives it of that all-round adaptability, 

which must be the characteristic of a really vital 

style, which is to become traditional. Still, 

a large proportion of their ornament is capable 

of being executed cheaply in carton-pierre and 

plaster, and often forms the chaste and delicate 

ornamental touch of many a burgher's house, 

of somewhat later date. If our speculating 

builders would only take their plaster cornices, 

to go no further, from this admirable book, 

what a stride would be made at once towards 

the better decoration of our rooms! And 

architects and decorators of public buildings 

might here find a quarry from which they 

might dig nearly all their material, greatly to 

the advantage of the whole nation. 

196 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

MATTHIAS DARLY 

(Small folio, London, 1773. Entitled "A Compleat Body 
of Architecture, embellished with a great variety of 
ornaments," compiled, drawn, and engraved by Matthias 
Darly, Professor of Ornament. ) 

Darly, I think, must have been brought up 
as an architect, but preferred the ornamental 
side of his art. He says — " Ornamental draw- 
ing" (? drawing of ornament) "has been too 
long neglected in this trading country, and 
great losses have been sustained in many of our 
manufactures for want of it. On the know- 
ledge of true embellishment depends the im- 
provement of every article, and I do aver that 
this kingdom is more indebted to a Richd. 
Langcake (who is now teaching the art of 
design in France"*^) than to a Sir Godfrey 
Kneller." He claims his book to be "the 
first and only publication of the kind"(!). 
" Many authors " (on architecture) " content 
themselves with giving only the proportion, 
and almost totally neglect the graceful addi- 
tion of ornament ; to supply which defect 
this work is principally intended." Besides 
matters more strictly architectural, he gives 
plates of ceilings, panels, chimney-pieces, vases, 
spandrils, brackets, frames, friezes, &c. He 

* Because he could not get employment in England. 

197 



BEAUTY AND ART 

appears to have worked for Chippendale, both as 
a designer and as an engraver. His " frames '* 
and " panels " are frequently most elegant and 
graceful pieces of composition, far in advance 
of his contemporaries, if we except Adam and 
Pergolesi. In ceiling designs he seems to be 
the equal of Robert Adam. If he sins, it is 
by omission. He never attempts a table, chair, 
or cabinet. But his designs have, almost 
without exception, some merit, and are never 
foolish or pretentious. In 1767, before his 
principal work, he published a book, oblong 
4to, entitled " Sixty Vases by English, French, 
and Italian Masters" — one of the very few 
hints that we get that these men knew, or 
were willing to admit, that they were borrow- 
ing from the French. 

A. Rosis, small folio, 17531 "A New Book of Orna- 
ment;" Manwaring, London, 1765, "The Carpenter's 
Complete Guide ; " "The Cabinet and Chairmaker's Real 
Friend and Companion," by the same, also 1765; "The 
Carpenter's Companion for Chinese Railings and Gates " (H. 
Morris and J. Crunden, 1 7 70 ) ; and " The Joyner and Cabinet- 
maker's Darling" (John Crunden, 1770) ; Gaetano Brun- 
etti, "Sixty Different Sorts of Ornament," 4to, 1736; J. 
Gibbs, 4to, 173 1, "Thirty-three Shields and Compart- 
ments," &c. ; Wm. Hal^nny, 8to, 1750, "New Designs 
for Chinese Temples, &c.," may all be bracketed as inferior 
productions of no merit, and quite useless. 



198 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

P. COLUMBANI 

(4to, London, 1775, "A New Book of Ornaments." Also 
4to, 1776, « A Variety of Capitals.") 

Two mcxiest and business-like performances, 
containing panel ornament and excellent chim- 
ney-pieces, almost equal to the designs of 
Adam and Richardson. The scope and extent 
of the books, however, hardly entitle them to 
an important place. 

GEORGE RICHARDSON 

(Folio, 1776. Entitled "A Book of Ceilings." Also 
folio, 1 78 1, "A New Collection of Chimney-pieces.") 

Richardson was a gentleman and a scholar. 

After disclaiming with a charming honesty any 

real classic authority for his designs (which are 

very much on the lines of Robert Adam), he 

says — " The following designs are composed in 

the style of the present improved taste." This 

nice feeling pervades the book; and as he is 

certainly less in awe of the five orders than his 

predecessors, and gives more variety of style 

and ornament than the others (though always 

strictly within limited boundaries), it is not 

too much to say that he is facile princeps in 

chimney-piece drawing. There is not a foolish 

or impracticable design in the book, and most 

199 



BEAUTY AND ART 

of them address themselves to a middle-class 
public rather than to the millionaire. He 
published several other books, mostly more 
strictly architectural, and one, consisting of 
ceilings only (folio, 1776), on thick paper, got 
up very much after the style of the Adams' 
book, inevitably suggesting a sense of rivalry 
with that splendid work, published three years 
previously. It is free from ostentation or 
vulgarity, but is deficient in freedom, as if 
he were chained fast again to the inevitable 
" orders." 

There were teyeral other architects who assisted in the 
movement, such as James Gibbs, **A Book of Architecture," 
fol. 1739 ; Abm. Swan, '* A Collection of Designs in Archi- 
tecture," fol. 1757; Swan again, <<The British Architect," 
fol. 1758; Swan again, *< Designs in Carpentry," 4to, 1759; 
W. Thomas, "Original Designs in Architecture," fol. 1783; 
W. and J. Pain, fol. 1786, "Pains* British Palladio;" the 
Pains again, fol. 1793; B. and T. Longley, "The Builder's 
Jewel," i6mo, 1787; R. Morris, royal 8vo, "The Archi- 
tect's Remembrancer ; " J. Wyatt, «* Original Coloured Draw- 
ings of Ornaments to Scale," no date, about 1770; Thos. 
Milton, John Crunden, Placido Columbani (mentioned 
above), and T. C. Overton, four, working together, and 
producing "The Chimney-Piece- Maker's Daily Assistant," 
imp. 8vo, 1 766 ; but I pass them by on account of the very 
inferior interest of their productions when weighed against 
Adam, Richardson, Darly, and Pergolesi. The first four 
have been well reproduced by R. Charles, " The Compiler, 
London, 1879. 



99 



200 



"   ' * ' ' I II ■■!■  «  ' " f t^mimmm^mi^^m^mmr^^^^^^^fsmmmwmmmmm^^mammm 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 



M. A. PERGOLESI 
(Folio, London, 1777, et seq.) 

A valuable and charming book of ornament, 
without preface, and merely entitled, " Designs." 
It is somewhat restricted in its scope, and follows, 
like the Adams* work, a too severe adhesion to the 
supposed hard and fast limits imposed by those 
tyrannous "five orders." Nevertheless he breaks 
away inevitably, (further perhaps than he knew,) 
from his jailors, and leaves us a very interesting 
and useful book, which forms a good hunting- 
ground for designers to-day, though not old 
enough to belong to the great days of art. 

It appears to have been published in num- 
bers extending over some years, and existing 
copies are seldom complete. In the later num- 
bers there are " centres " to panelled ornaments, 
engraved by Bartolozzi (amorini, and the like), 
which are most lovely. Indeed, to lovers of 
ornament, it is a delightful book, and perfect 
copies are worth probably ten times the original 
cost. Pergolesi was brought from Italy by 
Robert Adam, and, beyond doubt, was the un- 
acknowledged author of most of the beautiful 
details of the Adams' book. 



201 



BEAUTY AND ART 

G. B. CIPRIANI 
(FoliOy London, 1786.) 

A book of ornament — figure-work only 

engraved by Bartolozzi, and not important to 
the present inquiry, is the only one of Cipriani's 
books published in England, in 1786 — the rest 
(for he published several) date from Rome, and 
are much later. Nevertheless, he cannot be 
overlooked as a factor in the movement, for, 
like Angelica KaufFmann, he constantly pro- 
vided elegant little designs for the panels and 
backs of Sheraton and Heppelwhite*s sofas and 
chairs, and what he did in this way he did well. 



THE CABINETMAKER'S LONDON BOOK 

OF PRICES 

(Small 4to, London, 1788. Second Edition, i793>) 

The best designs are signed "Shearer." 
Shearer is excellent and practical, never osten- 
tatious or pretentious. He certainly does not 
rise to the highest flights possible to the style, 
but he is always sound and moderate, and never 
descends to showy rubbish. One wishes that 
his 29 plates had been 92. 



202 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 



A. HEPPELWHITE & CO. 

(Foolscap folio, London, 1789. "The Cabinetmaker 
and Upholsterer's Guide.") 

The authors commence in the stilted style of 
the time — " To unite elegance with utility, and 
blend the useful with the agreeable, has ever 
been considered a difficult but an honourable 
task." It is " in the newest and most approved 
taste." " English taste and workmanship have, 
of late years, been much sought for by sur- 
rounding nations " {?) ..." and the mutability 
of all things, but more especially of fashion, 
has rendered the labours of our predecessors in 
this line of little use " ! Their book is " useful 
to the mechanic, serviceable to the gentleman," 
and " we designedly followed the latest fashion 
only." This last statement is certainly true 
enough, in the sense that the style, since Chip- 
pendale's time, had already made a considerable 
development, partly in the direction of Louis 
Quinze work — chairs with their straight-fluted 
and beaded legs, for instance — and partly in 
the direction of an English sobriety of taste, 
alluded to above. 

But beyond this high-sounding preface, 
Heppelwhite appears merely as the plain un- 
varnished tradesman with an illustrated list of 

203 



BEAUTY AND ART 

wares to sell ; and a very practical and excellent 
list it is. His tea-<addies, tea-trays, tops of 
card-tables and dressing-tables, are most charm- 
ing examples of beautiful design and arrange- 
ment. He seems to have benefited considerably 
by the labours of Pergolesi: his beds are, as 
usual, too ambitious, and he loses his head 
somewhat about draped cornices ; but the book, 
taken as a whole, is useful and modest, and 
nearly always quite practicable, so th^t among 
his 300 designs there are scarcely twenty which 
might not, with advantage, be reproduced. 



THOMAS SHERATON 

(4to, LondoD, i79i-93. Eotitled *<The Cabinet Maker 
and Upholsterer's Drawing Book." An *' appendix " 
to the above, 4to, 1793; **^^ accompaniment/' 4to, 
1794 ; a ** Cabinet Dictionary," 8vo, 1803 ; ** Designs 
for Household Furniture," folio, 1804 ; << The Cabinet 
Maker, Upholsterer, and General Artist's Encyclopedia. 
Coloured Plates," folio, 1804.) 

Sheraton, though more modest than Chip- 
pendale, cannot commence his book without 
recourse to those never-to-be-forgotten five 
orders, and "geometrical instructions for find- 
ing lines for Hip and Elliptic domes for State 
beds " ! Part II. he titles " on practical per- 
spective . . . together with a little of the 

204 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

theory for such as would know some of the 
reasons on which their useful art is founded." 
And he cannot resist a frontispiece, repre- 
senting "Geometry standing on a rock with 
Perspective by his side," &c., "while on the 
background is the Temple of Fame, to which 
a knowledge of these arts directly leads " ! He 
says it will not be " requisite to use an osten- 
tatious preface," and immediately proceeds to 
write one! 

He gives a little account of his predecessors : 
"I have seen (a book) which seems to have 
been published before Chippendale " — he men- 
tions no date — " but it is of no value, because 
it gives no instructions in drawing " ! " Chip- 
pendale's book seems to be next in order to 
this, but the designs themselves are now wholly 
antiquated and laid aside" (Chip., third edi- 
tion, 1762 ; Sheraton, 1791-93) ! He mentions 
Manwaring's book (1766), and says — "There 
is nothing in his directions but what an appren- 
tice boy may be taught in seven hours; . . , 
the geometrical views of the five orders are 
useful, and the only thing in his book which at 
this day is worth notice, as his chairs are nearly 
all as old as Chippendale's, and seem to be 
copied from them." Of Ince and Mayhew's 
book he says — " The designs are of such kind 

as are wholly laid aside in the cabinet branch." 

205 



BEAUTY AND ART 

Of Heppelwhite's book, published in 1789, he 
says — " Some of these designs are not without 
merit, but if we compare the chairs with the 
newest date, we shall find that this work has 
already caught the decline {t.e.^ in two years !). 
He thinks his own book " will be found greatly 
to supply the defects of those now mentioned " 
(he entirely ignores R. and J. Adam), for " it 
is pretty evident that the materials for proper 
ornament are now brought to such perfection 
as will not in future admit of much, if any, 
improvement " ! He occupies 311 pages out 
of 446 in his first book with elaborate instruc- 
tions as to geometrical, architectural, and per- 
spective drawing — some of which might possibly 
be useful to an architect who had a town-hall to 
design, but are totally useless and cumbersome 
for cabinetmakers, to whom alone he addresses 
himself; and one cannot avoid the suspicion 
that he felt jealous of the brothers Adam, and 
wished to show that he could do their own 
work better. 

He could occasionally be preposterous, as some 
elaborate plates of beds witness; but he is, in 
general, far more reasonable, severe, and prac- 
tical than Chippendale, though it must be 
admitted that he does not cover so much 
ground. I think there can be little doubt 
that he had had some architectural education, 

206 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

and had drifted into cabinetmaking. There is 
a plate introduced after No. LV. which differs 
considerably from all the others in the book 
(though marked as Sheraton's drawing, and 
engraved by the same hand as the rest), which 
must have been inspired by a sense of rivalry 
with Robert Adam ; and, in a most pedantic 
way, he goes at length into a question, whether 
or no Solomon's temple was Doric architecture ! 
— or possibly Tuscan ! — ^arguing the matter with 
dates, dimensions, proportions, &c. — in fact, he 
is (or pretends to be) wrapped up in his be- 
loved five orders, and the transition from Greek 
temples to chair backs is as amusing as it is 
sudden. 

There is good wheat, beyond doubt, in the 
" appendix," and the ** accompaniment," al- 
though there is an immense proportion of 
chaff; but his books do not improve as the 
series goes on, and the last, the "Encyclo- 
paedia," in which the " Designs for Household 
Furniture" were included, is pretentious and 
rambling in scope, and the illustrations, in the 
fashion of the day (1804), coloured, are in- 
credibly false and vulgar, exhibiting a dete- 
rioration, in the eleven years from his first 
book, which is quite remarkable. 

In the three earlier books, however (and it is 

through these that his memory will survive), 

207 



BEAUTY AND ART 

notwithstanding all his bombast in letterpress, 
he is never so pretentious as Chippendale, and 
his proportion of good work is considerably 
greater. Intellectually, he seems to have been 
a man nearer the calibre of the Adams, and he 
had evidently caught the improvement in severity 
of line which was taking place in good French 
work (Louis Quinze, 17 15-1774), and had 
added a sobriety to it which he had not caught 
from France. The best of his chairs are still in 
high repute, and have probably fetched higher 
prices (relatively to their importance and cost) 
than any of the furniture we are discussing. 

But here we come, rather suddenly, to an 
end of the men whose works are of value. 
J. Taylor, about 1 805, published a book entitled 
"Decorative Household Furniture"; but the 
entire absence of any merit whatever makes one 
see how completely the designing power wliich 
produced the style had passed away. G. Smith, 
again, in 1808, published a 4to book entitled 
" Collection of Designs for Household Furni- 
ture," curiously stupid and vulgar. Two or 
more by H. Wood, 4to, undated, probably 1 806, 
are entirely devoid of merit ; and complete im- 
practicability had its day in 1 807, when Thomas 
Hope published his " Household Furniture and 
Interior Decoration," which might have been 

written to show how a very close and faithful 

208 



^mmmm^^w^m^mmm^m^^f^''^mmmi^mmmmmmmmm^^'^f^mmmmmmmmmt^ 



FURNITURE AND DECORATION 

adherence to Egyptian, Greek, and Roman form 
is utterly incompatible with any practical attempt 
to meet the needs of modern home life. 

I desire to acknowledge my indebtedness to 
Mr. J. H. Pollen's excellent book on furniture : 
a comprehensive history of furniture-making, 
and its gradual development, from the very 
earliest times. 



THE END 



Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co. 
Edinburgh and London 



wv^^^^a^'^'^m 



r- 



FA132.7 

BMMity m 
Fkw Arts 



Fhw Arts Ubrsry ATaajan 

ipllllllllll 

3 2044 034 108 175 




V 4^ i 



FEB24I^M 



' ;. '■ 






fcij^ 7 f^rf^ 



f5.sf?eij@4 






/■' 



-^ - *- _*'. 



Vi»- 




J U L.Hl'gg" ^ 




i